HL Deb 21 January 1976 vol 367 cc470-521

2.56 p.m.

The EARL of LYTTON rose to call attention to the continuing growth of juvenile crime; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, it is chance that brings me here today. I put my name into the ballot box, and to my horror it was drawn out first; and so it is that I have an opportunity to come before your Lordships and, I hope, to achieve my object, all sublime, to call attention to juvenile crime. That is the subject on the Order Paper. But I have also been asked to call attention to something else. There are many distinguished speakers to follow, and it has been suggested that, as we are obliged to finish by half-past five, anyone who hogs the air for more than 10 minutes will incur the displeasure of the Whips. I have made my contribution by leaving my notes behind, hoping that I may forget half of what I wanted to say.

However, to revert, I have been interested in crime since, 50 years ago, I was handed over a young man on crutches and instructed to execute him for the second time, and to do it properly this time. Although that has no bearing on what I am going to talk about, it indicates my interest. Then, recently, when a report was headlined in the London evening newspapers to the effect that every London boy is a thief—some before they are 7, more before they are 10 and the whole lot by the time they are 16—I looked at it and decided that I would follow it up. That particular report has no special relevance to this debate because it is old, but it did bring to my notice one interesting fact which I have had confirmed throughout the world, and that is that crime is not caused by poverty in particular; nor by deprivation; nor, indeed, by something being wrong with a person's head, as the Royal College of Psychiatrists, in their evidence to the Short Committee, indicated. The vast majority of delinquents stand in no need whatsoever of psychiatric treatment; they are normal. They are not "kinky"; they are naughty.

During the months which have passed since I won this ballot I have corresponded with chiefs of police from the Clyde, the Mersey and the Thames, in Paris and West Berlin, Tokyo, San Francisco, Melbourne and other places. The replies have been pouring in, and, if possible, I will give a glimpse of what they say, but they have produced on my mind a certain pattern. Crime—I do not mean juvenile crime, but crime everywhere—has been rising considerably since 1950. In some countries juvenile crime bears a constant relationship, but even where it does not—and in many it does not; it is much higher—there is the distressing feature everywhere that younger children are committing more violent crimes, and that they are more frequently accompanied by girls. That happens everywhere.

While we are on the subject of girls, Scotland tells me that over the record of the past 20 years, for every one girl criminal there are 10 boys. So Scotland wins the good girl prize. That merely confirms my impression, which I have had for some 50 years, that the female sex is the nobler. However, things are unhappily changing, and when women take to crime the female of the species is more deadly than the male. A very responsible educational authority in London told me that there is a community, perhaps more than one, where it is very ill-advised for the teacher to separate two girls who happen to be fighting. The chances are that both will turn on him and they will both bite him. Long ago I had occasion to sew up the lips of one woman who had been fighting with another; but that is another story.

My Lords, I have tried to find out what is at the heart of the problem. A great deal of this can be taken in its stride by our police everywhere; and, before I go on, I will go back to one further result of my world survey, which is that round about 1969 the spirit of the 1969 Act seemed to be blossoming—everywhere. Captain Davy of New York writes to indicate his great admiration of the way we control our social services. The chap from San Diego indicates from his figures that roughly about the same time the same sort of thing was happening. Much to my surprise, it happens to be Tokyo rather than here where the 1969 Act is being carried out. They keep their eye on some 50,000 to 60,000 children in Tokyo; as they say that they would otherwise be deliquents. Is that not exactly what we are trying to achieve: adequate supervision? I am not sure whether or not that 50,000 to 60,000 figure is very large because I am no expert, and the population of Tokyo is about 11½ million. But it is an indicator; and they have a nice little name for one of their methods. "Hello dear", I think the movement is called. I do not know enough about it. I feel that a visit to Tokyo would be a most useful result of all this reasearch.

I should like to congratulate Vienna on their being able to write to me to say: "This is not a topical subject. We have no problem." That is a city of 2 million. How do they do it? I do not know. In many other places it is serious. In many places the figures are not comparable; they are very suggestive but are not strictly comparable. In Melbourne, for instance, there were 27 homicides last year; but the age groups are different. They are different in Japan, too. It looks bad in Melbourne where all are under 21; it looks good in Tokyo, for there were only 5,000, but they were all under 14. So one cannot make a comparison.

My Lords, let us stick to this country. Scotland Yard helped me most. They did not brief me. I went in there and held one of their officers for questioning. When I do that with the police, I go on for two hours non-stop until he makes some confession or the other. It was the same with the Inner London Education Authority. I think I pinpointed the serious trouble. It appears that there are in London 200 dyed-in-the-wool, sophisticated criminals who have been before the police, each one, 30 or 40 times. What more can the police do? But there are only 200. They have committed every sort of crime. One hundred and twenty of the 300 motorcars stolen in London every day are taken by people under the age of 17 who have no authority to drive anything.

This is allied a little to truancy, but in order not to take up too much time, I want to concede that according to my inquiries the staffing shortage due to inadequate salaries has been the cause of a lot of trouble in all or in a great many schools; and that in May this year when the salaries were raised the light began to break almost immediately. Things are improving already. I want to say in regard to truancy that it is difficult to find the true truancy figures. It looks like something between 10 per cent. and 15 per cent.; but that includes absentees and children with tonsilitis—for they have every sort of ailment. The real truancy figure may be something like 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. Again, by questioning until I got a confession, I asked what were the elements of this 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. which was resented at the recent Conference of Assistant Masters. What percentage is it? They want to expel certain children from the system. I think that somewhere there is a 2 per cent. figure.

My informant, who impressed me as knowing everything from A to Z—and if you want to know, go to the Inner London Health Authority, the head of the Secondary Department, and you will find out—suggested1 per cent. I am not sure myself that there is not a place for a statutory class of ungovernable boy. Unfortunately, when I said "ungovernable boy" this man also said "ungovernable girl", that it was half and half. That is what we have come to. There has been a decline in the behaviour of girls.

My Lords, I have been speaking for eleven minutes, but I did make two announcements and I will go on for one minute more to the end of what I was going to say. With regard to the matter of supervision, I overlap a little with the Question put by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, today on the subject of visiting. That is important. We must cover the matter of these difficult families. I think that some families should be put in care, and not the children. The families are responsible for them; they should be put in care and supervised. It is a question of "Like father, like son". Some of them are not up to it. My impression is that there is nobody except a policeman who has the right to enter a house at all. I am suggesting that there should be somebody like a statutory National Society for the Protection of Children who would go in with that right. I feel that the social services are becoming like father and mother confessors. They are getting a very happy and confidential relationship with the people in the houses and they do not want to be involved in criminal proceedings.

My Lords, I persuaded my noble friend Lord Leconfield and Egremont, against his better judgment, to make his maiden speech today, and I do not want to go on lest he has no time to make it.

3.10 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, for introducing this debate this afternoon. We shall listen with great interest, I know, to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Leconfield and Egremont.

Juvenile crime, and particularly the alarming rate of its increase, is a matter about which the public are rightly concerned. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, has given us some figures. Some of our most persistent and violent criminals are now under the age of 17. About a quarter of all serious crime involving violence, and more than 40 per cent. of all burglaries and robberies, is committed by children under the age of 17. I too regret that the number of girls committing crimes is on the increase. I believe it to be true that last year there was a 16 per cent. increase in the crimes committed by girls, and the amount of crime committed in London rose alarmingly as well.

What is particularly disturbing is that neither the courts, the police nor the local authorities seem to have been able to deal with the problem. Not surprisingly, the public is becoming increasingly alarmed and is losing faith both in the penal system and in social workers. Law and order is an issue about which people feel strongly, and the public are puzzled because juvenile crime is on the increase at a time in history when more money than ever before is being spent on the education service, on social services and better housing, when there are grants for urban aid, and when poverty, although always something which is relative, is not the grinding poverty of the past. Better material circumstances may have brought a great many good things, but they appear to have brought with them increased lawlessness. In this debate we shall all find it far easier to state the problems than state the solutions. It seems to me that the great value of this debate today is the opportunity to make some constructive suggestions as to what might be at least some of the ways out of this present tragic situation.

One common cause of concern is the operation of the 1969 Children and Young Persons Act. This Act is regarded as a failure by almost everyone. I suspect the primary reason why it has not worked is because there have not been available enough resources to implement it. Nevertheless, many people would like to see more power restored to the juvenile court. One of the questions which must be asked is what magistrates could do unless there were to be increased resources to build what is believed to be the necessary number of community homes. One would have to ask, in our present economic difficulties, what would be the cost of such a policy. I believe the latest official figures show that the cost per young person in secure accommodation is now between £7,000 and £8,000 per year. It will undoubtedly be more next year.

Before we contemplate more secure accommodation it seems to me that two questions should be asked: First, could we spend such sums of money more usefully? If my figures are correct, we are spending on each child in such accommodation the equivalent salary of a full-time fully qualified social worker and a full-time fully qualified teacher. Furthermore, one must ask the question whether secure accommodation is the best way of dealing with the problem. According to the statistics I have seen—I hope I am interpreting them correctly, and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, will correct me if I am wrong—the official figures seem to indicate that there is only a 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. success rate. "Success" means that the young offender does not commit another offence for another three years. In those circumstances, I do not think it is possible to conclude that further secure accommodation would necessarily be the answer to juvenile crime. It is perfectly true it may be the answer for some offenders; and the question that should be asked is whether the right people are going into the right places. Nevertheless, it seems to me that if we are to find something constructive to say, we have to meet the very real fears of the public which is concerned about the breakdown of law and order, and to do so it is necessary to show that the causes of juvenile crime are indeed far more complex than may at first be supposed. Any proposals must meet these fears and must be realistic at a time of economic stringency.

One of the considerations which I believe we can take into account is the variety of responses there are to an adult who commits a crime. There appear to be far more alternatives than those open when a juvenile commits a crime. For an adult there is prison, probation, community service, fines and other penalties, whereas juvenile courts can only make supervision and care orders. It may well be that other alternatives ought to be available. For example, it has been suggested to me that a young person put on a supervision order ought to be under the care of the Probation Service. Alternatively, I know a number of people, experienced in the care of juvenile offenders, who would like to see introduced a community service scheme for young offenders. I should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, if he could say in his reply whether such a proposal would require legislation or whether this is something which could be introduced immediately. There is no reason why such a matter could not be incorporated into a supervision order and the courts could attach a condition requiring it. It would be vastly cheaper than residential care and it is a system which could make use of volunteers.

Secondly, I believe we should consider a much greater use of professional foster homes for the care of young offenders. I believe that Kent County Council is already trying an experiment and paying professional foster parents a suitable sum for the care of a young offender. Again, this scheme has the immediate economic advantage that it is infinitely cheaper than residential secure accommodation. But the far more important reason is that for once in his life it would allow a young offender to build a real relationship with caring adults. I have no doubt the Home Office is studying in detail the Hammersmith experiment which is now being carried out. Under this scheme, children can each day be at a centre from nine in the morning to eleven at night. They do not live in t they go home to stay with their parents. The time-table of each child is tailored to that child's needs. The child comes to the centre because of a truancy or because it has committed some crime. In this way the child remains in the circumstances in which it will inevitably find itself when it leaves the organisation that is looking after it. In the meanwhile, it is receiving professional help. I wonder whether we should be considering further projects in the light of this experience. The great advantage of this scheme is that the child's relationship with its parents is maintained. I believe that these suggestions could at least be put into effect immediately.

If we are going on to consider the underlying cause of juvenile crime—which I believe are matters which should be considered in a debate such as this—there are other matters affecting the long-term good of society that we should look at. After all, when a child finally comes before the court, it comes at a time when something has gone seriously wrong. It is not something which happened that day or the week before, it must have been accumulating over a long period. All the evidence of research shows the fundamental need of every child to build secure emotional relationships in the early years of life. One has only to compare the active, energetic, interested, inquiring, happy child of two with the listless, bored, "could-not-care-less" attitude of the depressed and disturbed adolescent hanging about waiting for something to happen, to see that life can change very much if a child does not have the right start.

I believe that, as a society, we have concentrated so much on the physical well being of children that we have neglected the emotional and spiritual side of their development. Over the long-term we need to look at the teaching of young people about marriage and family life, a theme we touched on last week in the sex education debate. Surely health education should mean teaching girls and boys about the responsibility for looking after children, not just feeding them and keeping them clean, with a roof over their heads. Children who have not had the experience of a happy home cannot in their turn pass on that experience to their children. It is one of the important points made by my honourable friend Sir Keith Joseph when he talked about the cycle of deprivation.

Marriage and motherhood are of vital importance, and in our anxiety over the Sex Discrimination Act to see there is no discrimination in employment we should not allow girls to feel guilty because they wish to give their undivided attention to bringing up a family. It is a vital job in the community and if they are not successful in doing this job society will pay a very great deal later on.

Continuing my theme, I believe that more could be done in the Hospital Service to help mothers, when their babies are born, to understand their children's needs; and when a mother takes her baby to a clinic for inoculations and regular physical check-ups it would be an opportunity for education to be given on the emotional needs of children as well. After all, only a very long period of public education and administration has made the prevention of so many physical illnesses a success story of the 20th century. Now we should look constructively at the other side of a human being's life to see whether we can be equally successful there.

We also need to look again at the planning of our cities. Tower blocks, the destruction of whole communities and totally inadequate play space, are, I believe, some of the causes of children growing up to be delinquents. Those of us who have been privileged to have places in which we could play as children, where we could climb trees, run about and enjoy ourselves, must appreciate how fortunate we were and how difficult it is for many young people in society today. Indeed, I was interested to read a report on vandalism by a Working Party connected with the Home Office Standing Committee, which says this about playgrounds: These, though more primitive and less expensive than fully equipped Sports Centres, were generally felt to make a really worthwhile contribution to combating vandalism. Most authorities are aiming to provide an adequate number and for the future they contemplate providing such facilities on all new housing estates. Some local authorities spoke highly of the value of 'adventure playgrounds' with less stereotyped equipment than the usual playgrounds. I believe we have been singularly unimaginative in the past over the planning of some of our cities. I hope we have learned from these lessons and will be able to do better in the future.

This is a short debate and so I should like to conclude by making a plea for full co-operation in this whole area between the Home Office, the Department of Health and Social Security and the Department of the Environment. So many of these problems cross all three Government Departments and what one of them is doing ought to be done in conjunction with another. We have already criticised local authorities for their lack of cooperation, but we need to see that such co-operation is taking place at the centre as well. I am glad to see that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester is to speak later in the debate. It is for him to speak of the spiritual side of a person's life, but I was most interested to read in the paper recently that among the fastest growing youth movements in the country are the Girl Guides and the Brownies. The reason given for this was how muddled young people are today about the principles in which they believe and how comforted they were to join an organisation which set out a set of constructive principles which they could believe and follow.

I think that in all this we must consider the spiritual and moral side of a person's upbringing. Everyone needs a code in which to believe and by which to live, something by which he can measure his behaviour throughout life. At the end of the day we need this acceptance of responsibility by adults, whether they be parents, teachers, social workers or engaged in the medical profession, seeking constructive ways to help a group of very unhappy people doing a great deal of damage within society.

3.24 p.m.

The Earl of LONGFORD

My Lords, it is a great privilege to take part in this debate initiated by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. He has laid it down that we must not speak for more than ten minutes and if I exceed that time I hope he will move that I be no longer heard. I shall then subside gracefully. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, has said some things on the moral and spiritual side with which I find myself wholly in agreement. She has said some other things which I think are rather unfortunate but I shall hope in these few minutes to put There was a time when I felt the need to her right more firmly than I would have done before the days of women's equality. be chivalrous but that no longer applies.

Like others of your Lordships, I have been involved in these special topics for many years. In 1963–64 I chaired a committee at the request of Mr. Harold Wilson who was then the Leader of the Opposition. This committee included the present Lord Chancellor, a former Lord Chancellor, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, and other distinguished Members of your Lordships' House. We were concerned with the prevention and treatment of crime and we introduced in our Report what might fairly be called a new approach to juvenile delinquency. In this connection we were particularly indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, who is not with us today. In that Report we laid heavy stress on the need to avoid treating children as criminals wherever possible. That was the basic theme of our approach to juvenile delinquency, while recognising of course the need for law and order. I am sure that all members of that Committee are proud to think that this approach has been so largely given effect to in subsequent legislation.

This is where I come to the noble Baroness, if I might obtain her attention for words which may seem rather harsh. She said that not sufficient resources had been given to implementing the Act of 1969, and I entirely agree with her, so we are totally at one there. I am sure the Government and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, do not need to have guidance on that point; obviously not enough resources have been devoted to that. The noble Baroness said that this Act was agreed by almost everyone to be a failure—I believe those were her words. That, I am afraid, I regard as a nonsensical remark. It just is not so. There must be many people both here and elsewhere who do not agree at all and so the noble Baroness simply must extend, if I may say so respectfully, her circle of acquaintances. If she moves just a little outside her own burrow she will find an awful lot of people who think that that Act was one of the greatest benefits in the treatment of young delinquents in this century. Therefore I hope that the noble Baroness will take it from me—and I say this with all respect to someone who is now on terms of complete equality with all of us here—that that remark of hers will be regarded in many circles as most regrettable. I must say that, because to say less would be too old-fashioned—

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I am quite prepared to stand to be corrected by the noble Earl, but I should not like him to think that I had asked only about one other person before engaging in this debate. I have consulted as widely as I can—and I know a number of people engaged in the social work profession—before reaching any conclusions. I will accept that the conclusions that I reached have been my own.

The Earl of LYTTON

My Lords, might I intervene as a peace-maker? Is it not a fact that the social services are about 75 per cent. untrained and that they are doing their best under difficulties, but they have not been as successful as they should have been?

The Earl of LONGFORD

My Lords, the ten minutes are slipping away with all these interventions. At any rate, the noble Baroness has recorded her view. She has moved in a certain circle and has found some people to agree with her. I only tell her that when she says (I think I am reporting her correctly) that almost everybody regards it as a failure she is saying something which is simply not true—that at least I must say—although I have no doubt that she herself imagines it to be true.

It was said of the philosopher Kant that he started from both ends of the road at once and never met himself in the middle'—I am referring to myself now and not to the noble Baroness. One is taught here, in approaching the question of young delinquents, that we must think in terms of the vast majority of young people, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the relatively small number whom one might call the hard-core of intransigents or whatever you like. Speaking very rapidly, I would say that we are moving entirely in the right direction with regard to the vast majority. I think we ought to move away much faster than we are doing from institutional treatment. We ought to do much more in the way of intermediate treatment and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Harris, when he speaks, will have something to say about the treatment of people in their homes. At any rate, that movement I entirely applaud. Nevertheless, we are left with a hard-core of these people—and everybody knows that the whole social life of young people, in particular, can be wrecked by a relatively small number—and the crucial question is: what do we do about the small number? Here, we have to find some new solution.

I do not think it is to be found in our Report of 1964. I do not know exactly where it is to be found. The phrase, "We need more secure provision" is all right up to a point, but that suggests that you just lock these people in and try to prevent them from getting out. That in itself is very unconstructive, so we have to find some method of applying a firmer and more moral discipline, very much in line with the ideas of anyone who has looked into this subject. We have to find some way of treating the minority on different lines from the vast majority. But in each case we must remember that the approach must be constructive and that each person—whether we say he or she is easy to deal with or difficult to deal with—has an immortal soul and is just as important from the angle of the community which is trying to do justice to him or her.

Before I conclude, I will say one word on a different subject. One can talk about the treatment of crime, the causes of crime or the prevention of crime and all these are very much entangled. But may I say one word about the causes and the prevention of crime, taking my illustration from one section of the community where crime is admittedly higher than the average? I am talking of the black community, and my experience comes mainly from Brixton. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, is well aware of this, because he himself, in one of his Ministerial capacities, has been of the utmost assistance to organisations of black people who are trying to help their fellows in Brixton.

If you look at the causes of the especially high delinquency among young black people, not only in Brixton but everywhere, these factors suggest themselves. There is a feeling of alienation from their parents' background, there is poor housing and conventional teaching and education do not allow for the social background of the child. Anybody—any elderly person or any young person not brought up in their milieu—who has had to deal with any black children must find it very hard to communicate with them, to understand what they are saying, and to make them understand what one is saying, and they suffer very much in that way in the schools. Finally, there is unemployment which, to speak in round terms, among the young black community is double the national average. Those are exceptional factors which undoubtedly produce a much higher rate of crime than the average, though many of the problems are petty.

If these problems are to be solved the Government and local authorities will have to provide money and facilities for much better training in vocational skills, and many more special incentives to bring industry into the areas concerned. This is perhaps the most glaring instance of where more resources arc required, but it is only one illustration of the general question. My Lords, when we talk about coping with juvenile delinquency, are we humbugging ourselves? Are we failing totally, as I believe we are, to provide the resources necessary to deal with the problem?

The Earl of LYTTON

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down may I join issue with him on his use of the term "black"? I have done a lot with black people and have lived with them, and I can indicate, for example, the Uganda-Asians who are in this country now—an excellent community with whom there is no trouble at all. Let the noble Earl go to Neasden High School and have a look at them. There are communities with difficulties. There are the West Indians. But why not distinguish? Not all black men are alike, any more than all white men are alike.

The Earl of LONGFORD

My Lords, I did not say they were, but the noble Earl and I are both of the same decade in this life, and it is just possible that he does not realise that black people now like to be called "black" I was not aware of that until a few years ago.

The Earl of LYTTON

My Lords, they are not all the same.

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, what we are debating this afternoon, thanks to the initiative of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, is not simply part of an international phenomenon and is not simply an integral part of the general growth of crime in this country over the last two decades; it is a specific problem of great gravity in its own right. The figures that perhaps indicate this most clearly are those that were produced by Commander Marshall of the Metropolitan Police towards the end of 1974; and this is a useful date, for a reason that will appear a little later.

He pointed out then that in the Metropolitan Police area, over the years from 1969 to 1973, the number of arrests of people of all ages for indictable offences had gone up by about 18 per cent. Of those people, the number over the age of 17 had increased by 10 per cent., while the number of juveniles under 17 had increased by about 60 per cent. It is a specific problem, nothing to do with the general increase in crime in this country. He went on to point out that in 1973, of all the arrests for indictable offences in the Metropolitan Police area, some 31 per cent. were arrests of juveniles. That amounts to something like one juvenile in every 25 living in the Metropolitan Police area in 1973, and that trend apparently continued well into 1974.

May I stress that we are not considering offences of triviality—larceny of a milk bottle or being drunk and disorderly or matters of that nature. In the year 1973, in this area, over half of those who were arrested for the offence of burglary were juveniles, and this is an offence which can cause grave psychological harm, apart from the physical loss that may be sustained. Thirty-nine per cent. of those who were arrested on a charge of robbery were juveniles and that amounted to 1,000 cases in 1973 alone, which was over twice the number some four years earlier. Fourteen per cent. of those who were arrested on charges of wounding were juveniles—again, about 1,000 people in the Metropolitan Police area alone.

The reason why I ventured to indicate that the year ending 1973 was perhaps a helpful one for your Lordships' consideration is that that was at a time before mass unemployment had begun to make itself felt, and before inflation had begun seriously to erode the standard of living of the mass of the community. Therefore, it seems a little difficult in those circumstances to attribute this substantial rise in juvenile deliquency purely to environmental factors. Of course, they have properly to be considered and can properly be inquired into. The effects of bad housing that have already been mentioned, the effects of job insecurity or job monotony, the effects of poverty—all these may properly be inquired into. But although there are areas of slum housing and of great poverty, by and large over the last decade those areas have diminished in this country, and perhaps it is not very logical to ascribe the rise in juvenile delinquency to those factors. Equally, one can properly look at the background of these juveniles; the number of cases where they have been influenced by coming from broken homes, and perhaps by the general decline in moral or religious values in the community as a whole.

Perhaps I might mention one specific matter— the general decline in respect for the rule of law that has arisen in this country over the last few years. I do not want to make Party political points this afternoon, but I hope it will be considered a fair comment if I say that it is improbable that children will have the greatest respect for the rule of law if they have been brought up in families which thought it either clever or funny to defy the Industrial Relations Act, however deplorable a piece of legislation that may have been. I think that it is improbable that children will grow up to have a very pronounced sense of right and wrong if they have been brought up in families who consider that it is normal or natural to make overnight a profit of millions of pounds on the purchase and sale to the community of a piece of land that it needs for housing.

It is no doubt helpful to analyse the long-term causes that may have given rise to some of this juvenile delinquency, but I believe that at best that can give rise only to long term and incomplete solutions. To take a specific example, if one could investigate the backgrounds of 100 youngsters on a football match special train who had behaved like thugs and smashed it into pieces, whether their team had won or lost, I doubt very much whether, in relation to each of those 100 children, one would be able to say that so many came from broken homes, so many were living in high rise flats, so many came from areas where they were temporarily out of work, or whatever it might be.

I would expect, of course, that factors of that nature would play a very material part in relation to the large majority of those children. Where that is so it is only right and proper that the 1969 Act should be so operated that those children are treated with the utmost possible sympathy and leniency in order to rehabilitate them into both their families and the community. But there is, as has already been mentioned, among others by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, a small group of persistent offenders whose cases are rather more troublesome. Again in the Metropolitan Police area, the same figures showed that there were some 100 male juvenile offenders whose offences between them totalled 3,735—many of them serious offences, many of them offences of violence. It was no answer of the social worker who is reported to have said to a police officer, "These kids wouldn't have such a bad record if you police didn't keep arresting them."

In relation to this small number of serious and persistent offenders, there are immediate remedies that must be sought, remedies rather more urgent than those which can be provided by long-term investigation. First of all, there is the manifest lack of secure places in community homes. I believe that in July of last year there were 220 such places for the whole country and that the Government then indicated that they would be prepared to grant a further £2 million towards providing more places. This is estimated at providing not much over another 100 such places. Secondly, in many of the major areas of this country there are no remand centres to which young people can be sent. Unhappily, the result is that those young offenders are sent instead, quite unsuitably, to local prisons where they are liable to mix with extremely undesirable company.

Thirdly, the very lack of these secure places in community homes encourages magistrates to make unruliness orders. They have nowhere to send the juvenile offenders by way of a community home, and therefore they feel obliged to send them to prison, which is so unnecessary. Fourthly, the 1969 Act as it is operated and as, of course, it provides, means that there are no sanctions whatever for a court where a fine is imposed but not paid by a juvenile, or where a supervision order is made but broken by a juvenile. There are no means by which the court can then proceed to deal with the person who has broken the order.

Fifthly, there is the question of care orders. I should have thought that the magistrates on juvenile panels, who have great experience of these matters, ought to have been entrusted with the power to determine what kind of care a particular offender should be given and, perhaps, what is the minimum length of period for which that care should be applied. Your Lordships will know that the present position is that there is no power to do anything except make a care order. The local authority may then, if they wish—and only too often even though they do not wish, because they have no alternative—simply send the child straight home where, as often as not, unhappily, further offences continue to be committed.

It appears to be not unreasonable to suggest that the juvenile courts which have such vast experience might be entrusted with the power of determining which are the appropriate cases for residential treatment. Indeed, the present inability of juvenile courts to make such orders is having precisely the opposite effect to that which was sought under the 1969 Act, in that because there is no power to make such orders the alternative course is taken of sending children either to a detention centre or to borstal training when it is not really suitable or in the child's own interest.

In a word, my conclusions are these. First, that there is a long-term inquiry into the long-term causes of juvenile crime which can provide only long-term solutions; secondly, that the overwhelming majority of these young people can properly be dealt with by the utmost leniency, kindness and tolerance; thirdly, that there is a small number of offenders who must also be dealt with by leniency, kindness and tolerance but for whom, in addition, a degree of firmness is necessary not only in their own interests but also in the interests of the community as a whole. When the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, replies to this debate, I hope that he will indicate that the Government propose to amend the 1969 Act and to provide under that Act the resources by which, in the appropriate cases, that degree of firmness, in the interests of the community, can be applied.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, I crave your indulgence on this occasion, as it is the first time that I have addressed the House. I see no reason why your Lordships should choose to listen to me. I am young and feel very much in awe of the collective experience that I see gathered here today. Perhaps, however, the urgency of this debate can be my best excuse for speaking at this time. There can be few members of this House who are better fitted to draw our attention to this problem than the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. Before the war, he was a youth club leader in Bermondsey. He has long manifested an exceptional ability to communicate with and understand the young and his word must have a special significance for us today.

The statistics which your Lordships have heard speak for themselves and I shall not attempt to add to them. All I wish to say is that there are no geographical frontiers to juvenile crime. It is as ubiquitous as the machine gun and is the central concern of nearly every police force in the world. I have received information from the Prefect of the Paris police, set out with characteristic French clarity, which proves how seriously the French regard juvenile crime. It is, perhaps, some comfort to us—a small comfort, God knows!, but some comfort—that they are just as perplexed as we are about the problems of its eradication. In certain areas of the United States the authorities have quite clearly reached the point of despair.

If I may be allowed to develop a personal note, recently I worked for a year on the East Coast of America. The threat of wanton violence and damage to property there, as I could see from firsthand experience, has become so extreme that the police are on permanent patrol in the corridors of certain schools. This is a terrifying example to have before us. It is really this that has emboldened me to take part in this debate, because its memory has never left me. It is precisely this that we must do our utmost to avoid. The importance of understanding and conquering juvenile crime must not be underestimated. We must try everything. Our objective must be to use every weapon, the sophisticated and the simple. It is a cliché to say this, but nevertheless it is true; if crime by the young can be contained, the problem and prospect of adult crime will inevitably be diminished.

Several attempts have been made by successive Governments to do this. The last of these was the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. Out of this there has undoubtedly come a more compassionate attitude towards young offenders; a desire to cure rather than to punish. But many criticisms have been levelled at it, particularly by magistrates. As their experience must of course be drawn upon in the fight, these criticisms must be heeded. It has been said that the Act is aimed too much at the casual rather than the chronic offender; that under its terms the greatest care is lavished upon those one-time offenders who would anyway be unlikely to evolve into the hardened adult criminal of the future; that too little deterrent is provided for the hard core of habitual juvenile criminals.

It has also been observed—this is very important—that the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, by guiding social workers away from specialisation, conflicts with the 1969 measure, which gives additional extremely specialised tasks to the social workers at precisely the time when they are not equipped either by training or direction to bear them. What is certainly true is that the juvenile crime rate continues to rise and it is far beyond my competence to suggest an easy solution. Perhaps the most that can be done is to put forward a desirable pattern that might be aimed at; a pattern that incorporates both the traditional and the advanced, for there can be no over-simplification of positions on this matter—no "sloganeering" of Left or Right.

First, we have in this country one overwhelming advantage. Our police have succeeded over the years in building up a unique relationship of mutual trust with the rest of the community. This relationship exists for a number of reasons, some historical, some sociological. Governments must not only recognize this but must capitalize on it, as I am sure the present Government with their very humane record on this subject have every inten tion of doing. In capitalising upon it, they must not only employ the most sophisticated methods of detection but they must also have regard to the old social dialogues and contacts that were so well established by the beat. I believe it is fair to say that Dogberry and Verges must not be entirely spurned in favour of Sherlock Holmes. In dealing with juvenile criminals, the police often find themselves playing simultaneously the role of social worker and law enforcement officer. Through their juvenile crime bureaux they often attempt the near impossible task of combining these two. More often than not they succeed. These bureaux have done a great deal to destroy the image that so many young people previously had of the police; that is, solely as agents of punishment. Let us see, my Lords—as I am sure the Government have every intention of doing—that they are given to the full the support they deserve.

Next—I am sorry, my Lords, I am going on too long—let us try to increase the liaison between the courts and the social services. The one is often apt to think the other too lenient or too rigid. A remedy here might be at least a partial return to the kind of specialisation that the 1970 Local Authority Social Services Act did away with. Clearly there must be some degree of uniformity of approach, either imposed from above or voluntarily arrived at. At least social workers dealing with juveniles should have the necessary training over and above their general qualifications to perform this exceptionally difficult and specialised task. Surely this is the very least that society and the Welfare State can do for these children.

There are still grounds for hope even in the most extreme areas. Recent publicity given to certain events in the North-East can be contrasted with another incident. I do not know how many of your Lordships read the recent report in the Sunday Telegraph of an experiment which is being conducted in Newcastle. Approximately 100 children are suspended each year from Newcastle's large comprehensive schools. Each of these comprehensives has now set up a special control unit through which the hard core—about 12 in number—of the disruptive element is extracted from the rest of the schools. These pupils then receive special attention in a separate part of the building. The idea is that they will eventually be filtered back into the main stream. Teaching at these special units is naturally aimed at a lower level, but it is conducted by teachers who are regarded as being of a particularly high quality. A psychologist—I know that one runs away from the word "psychologist" but I think in this case it is apt—is often called in to help and the emphasis is on persuasion rather than discipline. The Nuffield Foundation is closely monitoring this experiment which so far appears to have shown signs of achieving a remarkable success.

My Lords, I cannot profess to have any personal knowledge of this experiment, but I hope it is not impertinent of me to ask the Minister whether, when he replies to this debate, he will tell us what value the Government place upon it; for I believe it is no exaggeration to say that the result may prove decisive—I hope it is no exaggeration to say this—for the future of education in this country. This is a big subject and I have already spoken for far too long. When today we see violence and brutality all around us it is scarcely surprising that it should also exist among the young. But surely we owe it to them to shun the simplistic solution in which the level and severity of the punishment is merely increased. Such a solution turns the casual offender almost overnight into the hardened criminal. There is little reason to imagine that it succeeds in deterring the chronic offender.

If I may be impertinent enough to suggest it, what is needed is a real, compassionate understanding of the background and the motives that lie behind each case. At the moment the necessary machinery for discovering these is available in the local education authorities, the police, the magistracy and the social services. What it needs now is additional synchronisation, further encouragement and—above all—the will.

3.59 p.m.


My Lords, it falls to my very pleasant responsibility to be the first to welcome the maiden speech of the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat. He made two mistakes: the first was to say at the beginning of his speech that he could see no reason why we should not listen to it;the second was at the end of his speech, when he said he had spoken too long. Apart from that I found what he had to say immaculate.

The Earl of CORK and ORRERY

My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me, I think the noble Lord, Lord Leconfield and Egremont, said he saw no reason why we should do so, did he not?


My Lords, the combination of youth and fervour warmed our hearts and, I think, our minds. We listened to the noble Lord, for what he said was an admirable expression of the exhilaration and confidence of youth, and that charitable attitude which is not always concomitant with youth. At the same time, he obviously wished to show us the kind of qualities which have already endeared him to us. We shall with expectation look forward to further contributions that the noble Lord will no doubt offer to us in this House.

My Lords, here I must declare an interest. I am responsible for the care of some of these delinquent youths and girls. What I have to say will no doubt be coloured by that experience, but I hope that at the same time it may make some contribution of credibility. I venture to make two preliminary comments which I think are necessary in a debate as wide-ranging as this. One is that no doubt these figures are accurate—and there can be no question but that there has been a lamentable rise in juvenile crime—but there are certain mitigating factors which should not be ignored. One of those mitigating factors is the increased probability of detection, and the other is the greatly increased opportunity of criminal action in a multitude of Acts which before were not appearing on Statute Books, but now so do.

That does not in any way justify the belief that we should, with some kind of complacency, regard a temporary aberration from a general condition, but I think it persuades all of us who have some experience in these matters that we are dealing with a situation which primarily is not to do with what we theologians call "original sin". I very much doubt professionally whether the amount of inherent evil has varied very much over the centuries. I deplore that. It is impermissibly high, and it may be a confession of our own ineffectuality as ministers of the Gospel to reduce it.

My Lords, what seems to me to be the inference in the speeches to which we have listened this afternoon is that we are in a particular set of environmental circumstances which, bearing upon this basic quality or disquality, produce the kind of statistics which we deplore, although I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, that there is a distinction to be drawn between those causes which, being long-term, require long-term remedies, and those immediate issues which require immediate and practical conclusive evidence, and, when that evidence is arrived at, conclusive acts to deal with it. Yet it is part of the business of this House, in a debate on juvenile crime, to consider some of those environmental circumstances which have promoted the increase in crime, or so it is assumed. I would begin by casting some little doubt on the generally accepted thesis that if you are looking for juvenile crime, look for a broken home and you will find juvenile crime.

An interesting comment was made by a bunch of experts looking at the relationship of broken homes and crime. They came up with a suggestion—fascinating to me—that where a grandmother lives in the same house as the first and second generation, there is a greater likelihood that the children and grandchildren will be better behaved, which seems to suggest not so much that the quality of family life is the matter at issue, but its continuity. I am certain that families which stay together, bickering and quarrelling as they do, nevertheless contribute a particular quality to the family life which, although it is endangered, is not finally impaired by the various quarrels which take place from time to time. The continuity of family life rather than its quality has to be taken into account. In other cases, it may be that the causes of breakdown in family life are identical with the causes of juvenile delinquency, and one is not contingent upon the other.

My Lords, it has already been said that unemployment should not be regarded as conclusive evidence because the rapid increase of unemployment is very recent. I would prefer to think that the uncreative leisure which many young people and children find available today must be taken into consideration. It reminds me of what Gibbon said about bread and circuses in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He said that in the Augustan era there were 67 public holidays in a year, but by the time Nero was playing his violin, the number had increased to 167. I am fairly certain, out of experience of contact with the boys and girls for whom we seek to care, that it is the absence of the kind of opportunity to be had from the Boy Scout movement or the Girl Guide movement, or the acceptance of those chances; it is the aimless leisure of so many youngsters which contributes considerably to the apathy towards moral issues, and is accentuated by the even more dreadful and scathing conditions of juvenile unemployment.

My Lords, I cannot forbear to comment on the increase of the availability of weapons of one sort and another, and the encouragement given by the media to consider that virility and growing up are both associated to some extent with the expression of violence, not least the violence which is also sexual, a matter generally disregarded, but which in matters of this importance are to be taken together in many respects. I am quite sure that one of the answers which can be given to the point on unemployment and uncreative leisure is something along the lines of public service, something along the lines of youth work, which is required as a second stage of the education process which, when it ends at 15 years of age, induces truancy to a very large degree in the concluding years as well as in the earlier years of that schooling, and is irremedial under conditions where increasingly those who leave school are plunged into a world where they are not required to accept the kind of discipline properly adumbrated by other noble Lords already this afternoon.

I believe further that we cannot disregard the increasing availability of alcohol. I know that this is the sort of drum I am inclined repeatedly to bang, but I am quite sure I am right, and make no apology for saying that the introduction of the beer can and the availability of alcohol and the record of ever-increasing figures of the intoxication of the young, is one of those environmental indications which go some way at least to explain the increase in that kind of crime often committed, not by people who are blind drunk, but by those sufficiently intoxicated not to care very much what the moral issues happen to be. It is for those reasons that I do not find myself totally surprised at the increase in juvenile crime, but I do find myself at somewhat of a loss to see what, in the present circumstances, can be done about it. However, I would make various random suggestions.

My Lords, as have others, I have been impressed by the effectiveness of the 1969 Act, where the necessary resources are available to put its articles into effect. I should like to see, where supervision orders are provided, that both parents should be required—if there are two parents—to appear at court to be told what is going to happen. Over and over again probation officers have told me that when one or other of the parents comes to court—or when the mother, as in most cases, comes—the provision is not properly recognised and the likelihood of it being carried out, or the conditions for which the parents should be responsible for being carried out, are minimal. I should like to see some kind of centre; if you like an attendance centre, which is totally separated from the police force. I share with the noble Lord, Lord Leconfield and Egremont, great admiration for the work of the police forces, but to be quite matter of fact and simple about it, it seems tome that where there is tension between the police force and the juvenile delinquent, it is quite impossible to expect that the juvenile delinquent, when expected to attend an attendance course on Saturday afternoon, will not regard it as an imposition, and will not regard those who impose it or regulate it, or supervise it, as his enemy. What is more, attendance centres can quickly become thieves' kitchens.

My Lords, as I have spoken for ten minutes, taking off the minute in which I was congratulating the previous speaker, perhaps the House will allow me to make one other observation. I will certainly try to make it briefly. If you have no religious background—and we are living in the first secular age for many, if not the overwhelming number, of these young people—then where are they to find the challenge of the moral issue? Is it not significant that those who officially have kicked out religion have had to reintro duce what they call "self-criticism", which reminds me very often of the Methodist class meeting, which, whatever its failures and disadvantages, at least posed to the faithful regularly the contribution that they could make to the good, their failure so to do, and the difference between the way they were behaving and the way in which they ought to behave.

My Lords, some kind of self-criticism is absolutely imperative for those who are expected to live according to laws which are regarded as just and right. If they are not found, then where are the stabilising and disciplined principles to be found? I of course accept the principle that it is against the God who is our heavenly father that we sin; it is against Him that we commit our faults. Supposing there are many today who cannot subscribe to that particular belief. Is it not imperative that they should find somewhere a standard in the community in which they live, in the behaviour of their fellows, which is mandatory, which is obligatory or at least has such high validity as to persuade them regularly to consider their own lives in its light'? That is not a pious hope. It is, I think, the inevitable and irreducible need of any final recovery from the lamentable condition of juvenile delinquency which can only, in my judgment, be finally abated and controlled within a society which sets an example which the young people are ready and willing to follow.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, my reason for speaking in this debate is that for very many years I have been treasurer and on the executive of the Kent County branch of the National Association of Boys' Clubs, and I can say that the boys who have been through our hands have acquitted themselves extremely well in the world, and there has been as far as our records can tell, no instance of crime. Before continuing I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, for initiating this debate. I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord who has made his maiden speech, Lord Leconfield and Egremont, and to say how very pleasant it is and how appropriate to have such a young man speaking in a debate of this kind; to see a young face in this House is most cheering.

The Earl of LYTTON

My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Viscount. It is pleasant because he is juvenile and not delinquent.


My Lords, I would say that I quite agree that the figures are really terrifying—juvenile crime up 33 per cent. last year; and I think 40 per cent. of the whole spectrum of crime is juvenile. Also I heard the noble Earl say that in the Greater London area 12 boys out of 12 by the time they leave school have committed a theft or some petty crime. I thought in fact the actual figures were nine out of ten. I find that very hard to believe, although apparently it is in this report. I will not speak about girls, because in regard to juvenile crime among girls I know nothing. I would only agree with the noble Earl that the female is the more deadly of the species.

My Lords, what I am about to say I have said in this House many years ago. The 18th century French philosophers Voltaire and Rousseau said that crime was only caused by poverty and bad Government. It only shows how time has proved them utterly wrong. From my own experience I know very many people who have been brought up in very poor circumstances who would never think of committing any crime. On the other hand, I have known one or two people who have been brought up in quite good circumstances who have committed crimes. It shows that we must not believe everything that philosophers say.

We must try to cure the cause. I think it is a tragedy when young people have to appear before a court. It is the cause we must get at and try, if we can, to eradicate. And it is obvious to all your Lordships and to everybody that the cause lies first in the home, and later on at school. I think the home is probably the most important influence. I would wholeheartedly agree with the noble and reverend Lord, Lord Soper, that broken homes are a great cause of this. There are many mothers today who I do not think need to go out to work but yet do go out to earn more money, perhaps to get a second car. I think it would pay dividends if the State, the Social Security services—some people might think it is bribery—could pay mothers to work in the home and not go out to work. After all, what is a more important job in life than bringing up children, and bringing them up correctly'? I can think of no more important occupation. Many parents today give their children the most magnificent Christmas presents and birthday presents to salve their consciences because perhaps in other ways they have neglected them. We do really want the mothers in the home.

May I tell your Lordships something a friend of mine told me. He is somebody called Waddington who has just come back from China. This ought to appeal to a lot of the Party opposite—perhaps not in this House, but to a lot of their colleagues. He went round some schools in China and was very impressed by the good discipline of the children. He said to one of the teachers: "What happens if you happen to have a very unruly child?" The teacher said: "We send them back to their parents". Then my friend asked: "When they come back to the school and they are still unruly, what do you do?" The teacher replied: "We then banish the parents to forced labour. We punish them". Of course, I am not proposing that we should do that here. But it does rather take up the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who brought up the question of family care, that the parents are really to blame; you cannot blame young children. I have a friend who some years ago was going round a very big comprehensive school. He said: "I think it is a superb place; you have everything you need. But there is one remark I would make: your pupils appear to be very bad-mannered." The headmaster said: "Manners are a relic of the feudal age. We don't teach manners."

I think that teachers to a certain extent are to blame, too. I quite agree that the majority of teachers really do their utmost to do a good job, but there are a certain number of teachers who might be eradicated from the system. I knew two young people who were anxious to be teachers, and one was a teacher for a very short time. On the second day a small boy came up and abused her in extremely foul language. She complained to the headmaster and the headmaster said, "I am sorry, we cannot do anything about it. If I do, the parents will come up and make a fuss and go to the local M.P., and so I cannot do anything about it." So she gave up teaching.

Television has been mentioned. I quite agree that on television the whole time we see this appalling violence. You do not get that in children's hours, but the trouble is that many children do not go to bed when they should do and their parents allow them to sit up to see these scenes of violence. I think the noble Lord, Lord Soper, brought up the question of high-rise flats. Perhaps it was not him, I cannot remember. There again, when you bring up children in what I can only describe as a concrete jungle, it is very difficult for them. I give these nature trails for children from schools—State and other—at my place in Kent. I am a great believer that the nearer to the beauties of nature you can get children, the more chance they will have.

I have now spoken for 10 minutes, but I should like to say that I quite agree that there is great economic stringency at the moment. But if the Government and future Governments could give more money to the formation of boys' clubs—I am not speaking about girls because I do not know anything about girls regarding juvenile crime—if you organise runs, play games, climb hills and sail, keep them interested, that will solve a great deal of these problems. If only we can take them away from the "box", and make them do things instead of watching other people do things, that would be of great help. As I have run my time, the only thing I would end up with is that we must try to root out the cause. It is terrible to have these young people going before the courts. Bringing them before the courts is not the cure. We must try to eradicate the cause. I know that it will take a long time, but it is in our power to do so.


My Lords, at this time in the debate perhaps I might intervene for a moment to remind your Lordships, with all due deference, that this is a short debate, and in order to enable my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich to give an adequate reply to the various points raised, I would suggest, with great respect, that noble Lords remaining should limit their speeches, if possible, to eight minutes.

4.25 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of LEICESTER

My Lords, only one half minute then for those little courtesies to the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and the maiden speech that was given to us by the noble Lord, Lord Leconfield and Egremont, and just a word in support of what my noble friend Lord Soper said about not exaggerating the picture. It is bad enough, and I should not like to be accused of complacency, but my figures do not entirely agree with those given by the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder. I understand that the proportion of indictable crime, in the sense of persons found guilty, during the last four years has hovered at about 22 per cent. to 24 per cent. and has not varied very much.

In my area of Leicestershire—I take no credit for this—last year the number of known juvenile crimes was reduced by 12;½per cent., and even when it was at its worst it was running at 3½ per cent. of the total youth age group coming into any trouble with the police. This is always a dangerous argument. I remember very well, when the noble Earl, Lord Longford, was speaking in one of our early debates about university unrest, he said: It is quite true that we are dealing with a minority. But make no mistake, as soon as you touch that minority they will become a majority. We have not quite come to that pitch with juvenile crime yet, but it is something we have to be on the look-out for.

I have been in close touch with both the police and the social services in my area of Leicestershire, and Leicestershire is one of the few provincial areas where there is an adequate juvenile crime bureau working in close touch with the social services. I am very impressed indeed with what they are doing. The social services are doing a splendid job among what we might call the more hopeful cases. I was recently in one of their community homes where I think I can say they have mastered the problem of truancy—which is a great achievement—partly through co-operation with the schools. The children have to go over all parts of Leicester and a good deal of Leicestershire to get to their old schools, but cases of truancy are now very rare through a mixture of kindness and firmness. There is no time to go into the details of which I could inform the House because, with the further reduction to eight minutes, one is reduced to a form of almost telegraphese if one is to say anything at all.

I think that I must move on to try to answer in some very inadequate way the challenge thrown out to me by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, although I feel that the ground has been well prepared by what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Soper. I have my own thoughts about youth unemployment, about broken and disturbed homes, about urbanisation. All these things have contributed to a society in which juvenile crime can flourish much more easily than it would in societies of different kinds.

But, if I am asked whether there is a root cause, I find myself answering it like this: I do not think that any society can hold together cohesively unless it has what I call vertical loyalties as well as horizontal loyalties.

We live in an age when horizontal loyalties are very strong. The peer group among youths of certain ages, the trade unions, the professional associations, every group that feels it has a common interest, congeals together if necessary against everyone else, and the number of enterprises in which there are vertical loyalties—loyalties running right through a family, a firm or even a school—are rather hard to find. I know teachers in schools whose behaviour appears, either accidentally or intentionally, to undermine the authority of the home and parents.

All this represents one of the root causes of our troubles and I do not see the cause of it so much in sex and violence on television as in the illusion that is being spread in this country by the interviewers in the media that if only the common man knew all the truth, he could debunk every known authority on every subject. This is an extremely damaging and dangerous element in our nation. No nation can live without myths and legends to incorporate a spirit of loyalty that can really inspire the self-criticism of which the noble Lord, Lord Soper, spoke. I endeavour to give my life so that, so far as possible, people can find an expression of loyalty in their service of Almighty God, the maker of all things and all men: but even if they stop short of that, there is still this upward and downward relationship of love and care, respect and responsibility, however one likes to describe it, which binds together different levels in every society and in every enterprise.

That is why the Girl Guides are doing such splendid work. I have Scout troops in my diocese who arrive at their Scout meeting with their knees pouring with blood because they have been stoned by young thugs on the estate: thugs whose only objection to them, I am sure, is that they are adhering to a form of society with a loyalty which it is their desire to undermine and resist. Thus, we will not cure this problem in a mini-debate, though we have to throw our best thoughts into the pool, and this is mine.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, I wish first to congratulate my noble friend Lord Leconfield and Egremont on his maiden speech. I like to think that it was perhaps encouraged somewhat by a meeting we had about a year ago at my old college at Oxford. I also congratulate him on coming to sit on these Benches. My Lords, I have only two points to raise today. The first is that this Motion is very much a logical follow-up to last week's debate on sex education in schools. Though of course not all juvenile crime is the result of subversion in education, I maintain that a significant proportion is encouraged by it. Since the decline in the influence of the churches, that discipline and training has evaporated. Since the abolition of National Service, that discipline and training has gone. Many of the schools which were the bastions of mental discipline are in danger of going and the reduction in the Forces, especially in the Young Soldiers battalions, have removed another prop. One has only to read of the affairs of schools like Tyndale to realise the consequences of the acts of the lunatic subversive fringe in our educational system.

What a neck for Mrs. McColgan to try to hoodwink us into believing that the "rank and file" is not a part of the International Socialists set up. Their "Little Red School Book" is notorious and their pamphlets on, "How to get your teacher the sack" and, "How to cope with the police" cannot, at the greatest stretch of the imagination, be good training for the young to support law and order. They and the Maoists set up cells in whichever schools they get their feet in. I know of the most repulsive of their leaders who actually got a student to steal his master's papers for the use of the Socialist Worker. My Lords, read Militant or Young Guard.

The second point I wish to raise is about alcoholism among the young. In my research for last week's debate I came across a very real worry among responsible educationists, especially in South-East London, on this subject. There has been a terrific—there is no other word for it—increase in juvenile alcoholism; the noble Lord, Lord Soper, referred to this. The drug culture is on the decline but teenage drunkenness, often leading to crime, is on the increase. I am told that statistics are available from the Metropolitan Police. Can we have them today? For example, are not the majority of wanton acts of vandalism by the young triggered off by drunkenness? Many parents do not help. "We like a drink. Why not the kids?" is often their attitude. Television advertisements do not help. At one time over Christmas 17 out of 20 "plugs" were for "booze". Nowadays it is not every landlord who can tell a 13, 14 or 15-year-old girl from one of 18. In one school I know of, 14 and 15-year-old girls were tipsy in class at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. There is definitely a connection between drug-taking and drinking. My informant was told by the well-known Sister Patricia of the Anglican Community of St. Mary the Virgin of young girls, being cured of hard drug-taking, returning to the Community to be cured of alcohol addiction, and vice versa.

Serious crime, vandalism and assaults are often the result of drink or a combination of drink with barbiturates or amphetamines. How often is the offence of taking and driving away the result of that combination? Supermarkets and delicatessens now sell "booze", some at all hours, to teenagers. Permissiveness now runs right through the whole spectrum of society and nowhere is it more apparent than in alcoholism and the young. Could the Government produce some figures? I am sure that if the incidence of crime with teenage drinking could be effectively demonstrated we should be on the way to controlling this modern plague. Do not tell me that the teenage vandalism of railway coaches, football buses and so on is done by sober people.The Western Morning News carried a front page picture on Monday of a vandalised Cornish church. It was completely wrecked—pews, Bible, choir stalls, the lot. Do not tell me that this was done by those who arrogantly boast that they are not Christians. No. These latter-day iconoclasts are young vandals subverted one way or another, and I have given your Lordships just two of the possible ways.

4.39 p.m.


My Lords, because of the shortness of time for this debate we must curtail our remarks. This is difficult for those of us who feel we have quite a lot to say on this issue. I sincerely thank the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, for introducing this debate because many of us have wanted to air our views on this subject. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Leconfield and Egremont, on his maiden speech; his enthusiasm for the subject was indeed refreshing to all of us, and certainy to those in my age group, and we look forward to hearing from him often in the future.

As all speakers in this debate have explained, juvenile crime is increasing at an alarming rate. The escalation has been noticed, commented on and worried about by some of the most important bodies in this country, among them the National Council of Women of Great Britain, the Association of Directors of Social Services, the Police Federation, the Magistrates Association, the Justices' Clerks Association and the National Association for Probation Officers. Also, every single juvenile court magistrate in the country is deeply worried and upset.

Time is short and I shall therefore restrict my comments to my own view of what I observe on my own bench, together with other views about families and the way some children are brought up. I sit in a very busy juvenile court in a large conurbation North of London. We have three juvenile courts every Wednesday and I sit as chairman on Wednesday mornings. The main increases in crime in my court are in burglary, criminal damage, taking and driving away and mugging. All those are extremely serious crimes. What can we do about them? The answer is, practically nothing. We can send any of these offenders to an attendance centre for up to 24 hours. I suggest to the Minister that that could perhaps be extended, because it amounts only to 12 alternate Saturday afternoons. We can fine them but, again, it is very difficult to fine, for example where one knows that the mother in a one parent family is on social security. There are detention centres. We know we can send boys to detention centres, but they are now usually released in six weeks. Then there is borstal. One can send an offender to borstal for nine months, though that case has to go through the Crown Court. However, offenders are very often released after three months. We can also make a care order whereby the offender is placed under the care of the local authority. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, quite rightly said, magistrates have absolutely no authority whatsoever; they can put the child into the care of the local authority but they do not know and have no authority to know—what happens afterwards. I can, and do, say that I recommend that the child should go to a community home, but that is as far as magistrates are now allowed to go. We have practically no authority at all and the children know it. They know that our hands are tied.

I believe we need to ask ourselves why this situation has arisen. I, like my noble friend Lady Young with her vast knowledge, also blame the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. I know that it was full of good intentions but I feel that all of us who were dealing with the problem at the time knew that it was implemented far too early and without adequate provisions being made by the Government of the time. I do not feel that this was anybody's fault. The Bill was pushed through. If I remember rightly, there was an Election coming up and everybody wanted this particular legislation on the Statute Book. It has, in many instances, been a very bad piece of legislation; its provisions have never been caught up with and, so far as I can make out, will not be so for a very long time.

Secondly, I blame parents. Some noble Lords have mentioned the "box." Parents and children alike are "box" conscious. Parents also fail to communicate with their children as they used to do in my young days. Granted that was a very long time ago, but parents should be made aware that they should communicate with their children. They do not seem to talk with them, and children certainly do not communicate with their parents. That goes through to the teachers as well. Also, parents may be frightened of their children. This seems incredible, but children these days are loquacious, very good at backhanding their parents, very good at being rude, at having no manners and no discipline and at simply walking out on their parents. The parents lose contact. They are frightened to tell little Billy to return home earlier than he has been doing. This morning I had a boy in court who had had many previous convictions. The social worker said that matters were very much better now because, when the child came home at weekends from the community home, the mother had reached agreement with him that he was to be in much earlier than in the past. I asked how late this 14-year-old boy stayed up. "About half past three or four o'clock in the morning", she replied, "but now I have come to an agreement with him that he will come home between twelve and one." A young child who is out on the loose with the gang which he has been with all his life will naturally go back to the gang and get into more trouble, as he did, so finding himself before my court this morning. So parents are unable and often unwilling to supervise their children.

Clearly, I must acknowledge that most teachers and social workers are excellent people. However, as we all know, a great number are untrained and—more significant and, I believe, more pertinent to this problem—many social workers and teachers who are responsible for the children have themselves been through training colleges and schools and in their adolescence have learnt no discipline and have been against law and order. I am afraid that, to my knowledge, it is quite certain that some of them—it is only a small minority, but it is a significant one —are not teaching discipline or law and order in the schools because they do not believe in it. After all, if teachers and social workers do not teach what we think is right for our children, the generations will move on and those children will become undisciplined parents who, perhaps break law and order themselves.

I believe, however, that we are all responsible, as one noble Lord has said this afternoon. We are responsible as a community. We have allowed the morals of the country to go down a slippery slope. We are not yet at the bottom, but I wish we were and that we were gradually creeping up again. We have not said "No", often enough.

What of the future? What can we suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to the Home Office and to all those who have to deal with our children? As has been pointed out and as we all know, there is a hard core in nearly all the big cities. Probably that is not so in the country—I have no knowledge of the country—but, unfortunately, there is a core of hardened criminals in the big cities. I know that because they come back again and again. They never seem to have had enough of me. I do not know why—perhaps I do not frighten them enough. Possibly that may be the clue. Perhaps we may succeed if we make the punishment at borstal or the detention centre fit the crime, though only for a short time, so that the offenders do not want to go back there and would prefer freedom to once more getting across the law and being recalled to borstal or the detention centre.

However, the hard core does not contain the normal juvenile delinquent. We really must see whether we can do something more for them. I should like many more community homes, purely because, in my experience, to take a child away from its home and environment and from the gangs it has been with, teach it something and return it home must be valuable. The parents will have been kept in touch in the meantime and the child can return home in about two years' time. That is what used to happen in the days of the approved schools but now, as I say, we on the bench are not even allowed to say that the child must go to a community home.

I have touched on care orders. I strongly agree with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder. I should like to see community service. I know that it is very difficult because the type of community service has to be extremely carefully thought out by those in charge. Clearly, it is no good sending a thug to look after an old lady and paint her walls, but one idea which I have had something to do with is putting young people in charge of people who are very much less fortunate than themselves, people such as subnormal children, or even subnormal adults, or subnormal teenagers; people who can be understood by a child and be seen to be worse-off. It is extraordinary how these young people have no idea that there are other people who are so badly-off.

We obviously need more playgrounds and leisure activities. This point was forcefully brought to my notice last week after I had sent a boy to Ashford Remand Centre for three weeks. He asked whether he could please go back because there was something to do all day, and he enjoyed it. We on the juvenile benches are having considerable trouble because magistrates are not willing to sit on these benches. They realise that the end product is hopeless. Their hands are tied. They cannot do what they want to do with the juveniles who appear before them. I have had considerable trouble recently in persuading younger people to put forward their names for service on the juvenile bench. My Lords, my time is up; indeed, I must apologise for having exceeded my time. Those are my few comments on this subject.

4.51 p.m.


My Lords, first I wish to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Leconfield and Egremont, on his most interesting speech and to express the hope that we shall often hear him in the future. We are all naturally concerned to note the growth of juvenile crime in this country and, indeed, throughout the world. But I am sure that we should all agree that it is important that we should not exaggerate the size of the problem and that we should avoid statements that might undermine the confidence of young people in themselves and their status in society. Young people certainly do not read reports of our debates, but they often read newspaper headlines and placards which reflect adversely on their generation. They frequently see on television other young people, and indeed adults, behaving m a wild and irresponsible way. Unfortunately, there is no one to point out to them that the vast majority of young people are in fact well behaved—as well behaved as we are.

For example, only about 5 per cent. of those under 17 years of age are delinquents. The corresponding figure for girls, a very interesting one to me, is 0.6 per cent. It seems that we should try to discover the reasons for this most significant difference in relation to sex. Perhaps the Home Office could instigate an inquiry into this field; it would have all the material available. One factor in the sex difference relating to delinquency is the degree of expectation among adults about juvenile behaviour. Let us take violence for example. In a girl it may be regarded as psycopathic and she may be thought to be in need of treatment. In a boy violence is, more often than not, regarded as natural, within fairly wide limits. In most homes parents take it for granted that the girls will help with the domestic work and the washing up, will look after the baby and do the shopping. Help may be asked of the boys, but it is less likely to be taken for granted.

This difference in relation to sex is found not only in homes where people are well behaved; it is also found in homes where there are delinquents, as Charles Dickens himself knew only too well more than a hundred years ago, to judge from reading The Old Curiosity Shop. Speaking both as a former juvenile court chairman and a present member of a secure accommodation committee that is specially responsible for the welfare of young people in closed accommodation, I agree with those of your Lordships who have suggested that we should have a wider approach to this problem and that we should consider some of the related factors, as well as what we believe to be causes.

One of the related factors is undoubtedly truancy. Many of your Lordships have referred to it, and we know that it is a major problem in many of our comprehensive schools. Apart from the disruptive influence in the school itself, and the risk which the truants may run if they get in touch with anti-social adults, there is also the long- term handicap for the juvenile in that he is missing his education and may go throughout life without the certificates which he might otherwise have earned. But as truancy is a major educational as well as a delinquency problem, I wonder whether the DES and the Home Office might consider a special investigation into this field. They might, for example, ask selected local education authorities to hold conferences to which the truants themselves might he invited to contribute and to express their views on education. This might seem an extraordinary suggestion. Nevertheless, I believe that it would not be impossible to find intelligent delinquents and truants who would make a useful contribution. I do not think that there is enough interchange of ideas between young people who are regarded as problems and the adults who take responsibility for them.

I also wonder whether local authority housing programmes could make more provision for the needs of young people. I realise that today local authorities almost always provide open spaces, but what I believe are also needed are well equipped rooms which could be used as centres for community projects associated with the immediate neighbourhood. These need not be used exclusively by juveniles. But the adults living in the neighbourhood would not expect juveniles to use these rooms unless it was stated quite explicitly in public that they were intended for juveniles as well as adults, and possibly chiefly for community projects in which young people would be involved. It seems to me essential that if these projects are to be useful and are to contribute in a way that will really benefit young people, the young people themselves must have a real say in the organisation.

Finally, I wish to refer to the closed accommodation in community homes. I am fully aware of all the many problems associated with community homes at the moment, particularly because there are not nearly enough of them. But I wonder whether in the homes, all of which, so far as I know, are full, more attention could be paid to the educational needs of the young people. There tends to be an assumption that in a community home the most useful work would be done in a practical way, but some of the boys in community homes whom I have known could work quite well for their "O" levels; in fact, they do quite well if given the opportunity. But in making that suggestion I am fully aware of the difficulties associated with it.

5 p.m.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, yesterday evening I was in a borstal talking with young people who are some of the casualties of our society and a reflection on the community in which we live. Before they come to the open borstal—I am a member of the board of visitors—they pass through Strange ways Prison for allocation, and here these young people aged between 15 and 21 spend 23 hours a day locked up. They come to borstal because they have rebelled against their unsatisfactory way of life. At the present time, one of the main causes of these crimes may be put down to the difficulties of getting a job, as has been said today. The anxiety and uncertainty before leaving school, and the feeling of not being wanted or needed, make them confused and hostile. In many areas the long leisure hours cannot be filled with enjoyable and interesting pastimes because there are none. The choice seems to be work for a few if they are lucky but drinking and sex for all who want it. Discontented young people are flocking together and forming disruptive gangs who rob, stab and beat up innocent people. These young people need a meaningful challenge in life. They need to be motivated to want to take part in useful occupations by good leadership, instead of drowning their sorrows in false outlets, such as drinking and drugs, which lead to their unsocial behaviour.

My Lords, yesterday a recall to borstal told me he had wanted to join the Army more than anything else. He and his probation officer had worked together to this end, and he had at last been accepted. One night before call-up he went out, got drunk and committed a stupid crime. Now he knows that he has thrown away the only thing he wanted and the only challenge in his life. He bitterly regrets his folly. This could be the turning point in his life, when he sees no chance of succeeding. The example set by many adults seems to be that of selfishness and fiddling. Many firms are often frightened to prosecute in case of strikes, so that young people learn that it is possible to get away with dishonest practice. Young people with difficult home circumstances and problems of learning, living in large impersonal buildings and attending huge comprehensive schools, must find it practically impossible to keep an individual identity with any dignity. Often, the only way that anyone will take notice of them is when they truant and turn to crime. We have an after-care service, but would it not be better to have a preventive before-care service? Our society has changed. More temptations are displayed. Thieving, like any other infection, spreads. It seems that we now have an epidemic with which to deal.

My Lords, there are several organisations trying hard to help young people at risk, but they are drops in the ocean. The community service volunteers never turn down anyone who wants to volunteer. They ought to be congratulated for what they are doing. So often young people involved in crime have graduated from children's homes to community homes, to detention centres and then to borstals, passing from one social worker to another. No longer are they individual people: they have become institutionalised clients. The community service volunteers encourage young people to want to give, rather than always being at the receiving end, and to help each other, so gaining confidence. I hope Her Majesty's Government will encourage more schemes in the community, but unless these have good, trained leaders who can properly supervise they will have little likelihood of succeeding. I also hope that Her Majesty's Government will see the need for a nationwide health education programme to teach children about the dangers of alcohol, the need for hygiene and child care. I agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has said. Otherwise, how are we to halt the cycle of growing violence and crime which leads to so much unhappiness and family breakup? My Lords, I now just have time to thank the noble Earl for having initiated this debate, and also to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Leconfield and Egremont, on his excellent maiden speech.

5.4 p.m.

The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, as indeed the noble Baroness who has just concluded speaking has rightly said, the House is greatly indebted to two people today: first, the noble Earl for having initiated this debate and, secondly, the noble Lord who made his maiden speech this afternoon. I had the pleasure of knowing his father only fairly briefly in my life, but I know what enormous pleasure it would have given him to have heard his son make his maiden speech here this afternoon. We all look forward to hearing him again, and I do so particularly because I found myself in very large agreement with what he said to the House today.

At the end of this debate I think it would be right for me to say that the Government welcome particularly the contributions of those Members of the House who have recognised, as I think many have, that juvenile crime is a social malady in regard to which effective treatment requires that we diagnose and deal with the causes as well as the symptoms. To debate this important subject on any other level might be a welcome relief to our anger, our frustration and our fears, but it would do little to reduce the incidence of juvenile offending or to treat, control and re-educate those young people whom we are most concerned to help.

At the outset I should like to comment on the statistics of juvenile offending. These have been mentioned by a number of Members of your Lordships' House, including the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder. Recorded crime in England and Wales has more than doubled in the last 20 years, and in these circumstances it would be astonishing if the age group under the age of 17 had been immune from this general trend. Indeed, it certainly has not been immune from this trend. There is, however, no evidence that the juvenile crime rate is increasing at a seriously disproportionate rate. Boys under 14 and girls under 14 were responsible for 7 per cent. and 4 per cent., respectively, of all indictable offences leading to convictions in 1974, and these figures have remained constant over the last four years. Boys aged 14 and under 17 were responsible for 19 per cent. of indictable offences in 1974. This figure has been rising at a rate around 1 per cent. each year, starting from 16 per cent. in 1971. The figure for girls aged 14 and under 17 was 12 per cent. in 1974, the same percentage as for 1973. This represents a rise of 1 per cent. from the 1971 figure. If, however, we look at the total number of juveniles found guilty before the courts and also—just as important in some respects—those cautioned by the police, the figures have risen from 176,000 in 1970 to 229,000 in1974, a distressingly formidable rise. What we cannot be sure about is how much of this rise is due to a greater awareness by the public of crime and a greater willingness to report it, or to increased activity and successful detection on the part of the police, particularly through the valuable work with young people of their juvenile bureaux.

The number of juveniles found guilty before the courts of indictable offences rose from 79,138 in 1973 to 92,879 in 1974. Although the most common juvenile offences remain theft and burglary, and some of the cases of theft are probably comparatively minor offences, we have to accept that young people are responsible for a significant proportion of detected serious crime. I accept also that there is a hard core of recidivist, disturbed and violent juveniles who have so far proved unresponsive to all the measures available to help and control them. The young people in this group are a danger to themselves, to their schools and to the community. There can be little doubt that offending by juveniles, both in its extent and in its growing seriousness, presents one of the most intractable current problems in the field of social control and child care. What, in these circumstances, then, ought we to be doing about it? The police role in dealing with juvenile offenders is clearly of the utmost importance.


My Lords—


My Lords, I have a very limited amount of time for I fear we have to end within two and a half hours. I do apologise to my noble friend, if I may so refer to him, but I cannot give way. As I was saying, this is recognised by the police themselves. The great majority of forces in England and Wales have special arrangements for dealing with juveniles who come to their notice. Over a third of forces operate formal juvenile liaison schemes which cover both those who have already committed an offence and those who are at risk of doing so. In addition, juvenile bureaux are established in the Metropolitan Police district and several other force areas. They are mainly concerned with gathering information about the juvenile after he has committed an offence—whether, for example, by summons, by caution, by supervision or by some other means.

A number of noble Lords have discussed the present law relating to children in trouble, the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, which, as my noble friend Lord Longford pointed out, he had a great deal to do with in the years prior to 1964 when there was a committee of the Labour Party sitting to discuss the series of problems that we have been debating today. As the House will know, the Act has been under review, both by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in conjunction with his colleagues at the Department of Health and Social Security, the Welsh Office and the Department of Education and Science, and by the Social Services Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee of another place. The Select Committee published its findings in September. These have now been considered by the Government in conjunction with their own review and we hope to make a statement soon. I cannot anticipate this statement today but there are one or two things which I should like to say.

The strong and differing views which this legislation continues to provoke, are not, I think, focused on the general aims and philosophy of the Act. I think my noble friend Lord Longford was right in what he said about this. Those are to keep children and young people out of the criminal justice system whenever possible, to provide support for them in their community and, if they have to come before the juvenile court, to ensure that the measures available to deal with them are sufficiently varied and flexible for each child's individual needs. These aims, as in 1969, continue to receive general assent. We cannot reinstate the previous system, and we should, I think, resist the temptation to think that all would somehow be all right if in some magical way we could go back to the situation before the passage of the 1969 Act. The inescapable fact is that the rise in juvenile offending over the last five years has outpaced our capacity to find resources to deal with it, and we have no evidence that these upward trends would have been arrested if the law and treatment systems had stayed as they were.

As a number of noble Lords have indicated, there is undoubtedly a shortage at present of specialised secure accommodation for children both on remand and for those requiring longer-term treatment. There were 155 places in existence by the time the 1969 Act came into force. On the 31st March last year, there had been a distressingly small increase on that fairly low figure. The figure of 155 secure places had risen to 193. However, at the moment a further 57 units are under construction and 95 more are in the provisionally approved programme for 1975–76. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, made the point—and I have great sympathy with it and anybody speaking from this Bench must do so—that the cost of providing secure accommodation is a fairly substantial one. But I must say from my travels around the country with my responsibilities, first, to the Probation Service and second to the police, that there is overwhelming pressure for more secure accommodation from the police, from the Probation Service and from many magistrates, as the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, will confirm. We simply must have more secure accommodation; although I recognise with the noble Baroness that the cost is distressingly high.

The Regional Planning Committees established under the 1969 Act saw a need for a substantial increase in secure accommodation first for assessment purposes (the purpose served by the former remand homes) and, secondly, for relatively long-term treatment in community homes with education on the premises, the former approved schools. The plans produced by the committees, as amended, include proposals for the provision of 480 additional secure places. Two hundred and three of these are in observation and assessment centres, and 277 in community homes with education on the premises. To encourage local authorities to meet regional needs within a reasonable period of time, the Government have taken power in the Children Act 1975 to enable them to make grants to local authorities to meet the costs of providing secure accommodation. One particular benefit of the early provision of additional secure accommodation in observation and assessment centres will be to speed up the implementation of the Government's policy of phasing out the remand of young persons to prison, which I think gives many Members of this House grave disquiet; that still in this year we are sending people of this age to prison. I think it has to be an urgent priority so far as any Government are concerned to do something to deal with this situation.

Although the main responsibility of providing secure accommodation in community homes is a local authority responsibility, it is recognised that among the boys and girls committed to the care of local authorities there is a tiny minority who are so disturbed and disruptive that they not only recieve no benefit themselves from treatment in a community home, whether or not in secure accommodation, but severely obstruct the treatment of others. For such children the Department of Health and Social Security are to provide and administer directly three establishments, known as youth treatment centres, with a high staff ratio, specialised facilities, and a programme geared to the provision of care, control and treatment over a period of several years. The first of these centres—St. Charles Youth Training Centre—was opened in 1971 and currently provides 38 places. The building of an additional 12-place secure unit is planned to start at the end of the year. A second centre is being built in the Birmingham area where a further 62 secure places for highly disturbed children will become available during the summer of next year. A start on the third centre, at Wakefield, will be made towards the end of 1976 which will add a further 76 secure places.

But, my Lords, I would add this. The successful care, control and treatment of delinquent children can only be carried out, whether in the community or in an institution, by men and women with the proper training, experience and devotion to this difficult and sometimes highly unrewarding task. Despite the great increase in the strength of social service departments over the past five years, there are not enough, there never were enough, and in all likelihood there never can be enough, of these men and women. I accept at once that the additional responsibilities which were laid on local authorities under the 1969 Act came at a particularly difficult time. They were faced with the Seebohm reorganisation, the loss by promotion or movement to other jobs of many highly experienced and qualified child care officers, and by the prospect of a major revision of areas following the Local Government Act. These changes did not make their task any easier.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, referred to the powers of the juvenile court. It is, of course, true that juvenile magistrates have lost their previous power to ensure a period of residential treatment for a child by means of an approved school order. This order, together with the fit person order, has been replaced by the care order which commits the child to the care of his local authority, and places on that authority the responsibility for deciding where and how he shall be treated. This is the most fundamental change at present made by the 1969 Act; the second is the replacement of probation by supervision.

But those sections of the legislation which would withdraw existing powers of the court have not yet been implemented. However as the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, said, she is by no means satisfied with the situation. Notwithstanding this, attendance centre orders are still available for boys from the age of 10 upwards; detention centres are available for boys aged 14 to 16 and borstal training for both boys and girls from the age of 15. In addition, the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1972 which enlarged, extended and restated the powers of the court to order offenders to pay compensation to their victims applies also to juveniles. This means that the juvenile court can now order compensation to a maximum of £400 in respect of each offence proved, the same sum as for an adult offender. In the case of a child under the age of 14 the court shall, and may in the case of other juveniles, order the parent or guardian to pay unless satisfied that he had not conduced to the commission of the offence by failing to exercise proper care and control.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, asked whether community service orders could be extended to children. The answer is they cannot without further legislation. They are not covered by the 1972 Act. I agree that these orders have been highly successful. My noble friend Lady Wootton, and those also associated with her, who were involved in the recommendation which led to the creation of these orders, may look back upon this proposal with a great deal of pride. Nevertheless, apart from legislation, we still have a great deal of work to do in extending community service to the rest of the country so far as adults are concerned. As the noble Baroness will know, there are formidable pressures at the moment on the Probation Service.

My noble friend Lord Longford raised the question of intermediate treatment. These schemes are now available in all areas. I recognise at once that we have an inadequate amount of information about them. I am told the Personal Social Services Council is undertaking a study of this particular type of treatment and we look forward to reading the results of that study. The noble Lord, Lord Leconfield and Egremont, raised a question about the situation in Newcastle concerning disruptive school children. This is one of a number of local projects which involve the establishment of small units in schools for pupils who are particularly disturbed or difficult. In Newcastle the Department of Education and Science is sponsoring research by the Nuffield Child Psychiatry Unit into methods to deal with maladjusted children. This research is looking into a variety of methods to approach the problem. The Government will follow the progress of this experiment with a great deal of interest.

I hope what I have said this afternoon demonstrates that the Government recognise the serious problems we are confronting in this field. I must emphasise that although society may be justified in demanding a measure of retribution to deter young people from crime, this by itself is insufficient. For true protection something far more positive and fundamental is needed. First, we must seek to build a society in which the needs of our children for security, for loving support and for an opportunity of self-fulfilment are met within their homes, schools and places of work. This is a task which cannot be a matter solely for the Government. It concerns us all.

Secondly, our defence must rest upon a juvenile law which is humane, flexible and effective. It must now be our united task to work together—juvenile courts, local authorities, schools, the police and all concerned at local level—to develop a constructive approach to deal with these problems. As I have said, the Government will shortly be coming to Parliament with proposals based on their consideration both of the Select Committee's Report and of the results of their own review. Thirdly, as has been said by many speakers in today's debate, our society relies upon a responsible, well-trained and adequately staffed police force which commands the respect of the community it serves. Here there has been a highly encouraging development recently, in that 1975 has been the most successful year for police recruitment in the history of the police service. Certainly in many areas the situation is still far from satisfactory. Nevertheless, the situation has improved noticeably in the year 1975.

I accept at once that we cannot expect a quick or easy answer to the problem of juvenile deliquincy, a problem which is clearly so deeply rooted in our society. We certainly cannot look to the past for an easy answer; there never was a golden age. We must keep in mind the truth expressed in the 1968 White Paper Children in Trouble, that the aims of protecting society from juvenile delinquency and of helping children in trouble to grow up into mature and law abiding persons, are complementary and not contradictory, and in that situation I think we have some grounds for both hope and confidence.

The Earl of LYTTON

My Lords, it remains for me to thank all those who have taken part, especially the noble Lord, Lord Leconfield and Egremont, who I am certain will realise that his grave apprehensions were wholly unjustified. As I cannot comment on everybody's speech, I shall be writing to all who have taken part—including asking how it was that the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, managed to make one of the most distinguished speeches in four minutes. I shall be writing to the 50 or 60 people outside your Lordships' House who helped me, including police chiefs all over the world. I shall be wheeling their documents in my wheelbarrow to Scotland Yard for processing. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.