§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This is a major piece of legislation, indeed probably the most important Scottish Bill for some time. It deals with a group of services directly affecting the community and individual citizens in their personal lives. Rightly, we are paying more and more attention to such services.
The Bill gives effect to the most recent thoughts about them in Scotland. It is an indication of how in Scotland we are responding to the rapid social changes of our time. The thought behind the Bill has come from many sources, but probably two separate streams of opinion have influenced it. One is the ways in which children are dealt with when they are in need of public care or become delinquent. Largely because of concern about increasing delinquency, the Kilbrandon Committee, the Committee on Children and Young Persons, Scotland, was set up in 1961 to look into the law of this whole subject. As the House knows, in 1964 the Committee recommended that juvenile courts should be replaced by new juvenile panels with continuing responsibility for the children brought before them. The Committee recommended, also, that all the public services for children should be formed into one social education department as part of the education authority.
In June, 1964 it was decided to accept the recommendation on juvenile panels. A little later it was accepted that the services for children should be reorganised but it was thought that the Committee's recommendation did not necessarily offer the best way of doing it. This doubt about the form of reorganisation came from the second stream of opinion. There was an increasing feeling that the various welfare services—those for elderly people, for the handicapped and for the support of the sick as well as for children—should be reorganised in a more coherent way.
50 These services were set up and developed in a piecemeal way at different times and, apparently, in response to different needs. We can see now that they have a great deal in common, because they draw on the same groups of people for their staff, and these staffs are trained in similar ways. In addition, they are often concerned with members of the same families. I think that the same can be said of the probation service.
Therefore, the Government decided to look at the organisation of all the services, and with the help of a joint working group, for which the local authority associations provided members, we gave a lot of thought to this. The result was the White Paper Social Work and the Community published in October, 1966. This proposed, as a basis for public discussion, a new local authority social work department integrating all the existing welfare services and the probation service into a comprehensive organisation. It proposed, also, that this new department should provide the professional support for the Kilbrandon-type children's panels.
All the interested bodies submitted comments on the White Paper's proposals. There was criticism of some of them, but the great bulk of the comments were in support of the proposals. I looked carefully at the criticisms as well as the support, and the result is the Bill now before the House, with one slight exception.
The Bill does two main things. First, it provides for the setting up of children's panels very much on the lines recommended by the Kilbrandon Committee. Secondly, it places on the local authority a duty to make available, through the new social work department, advice, guidance and assistance on a scale appropriate to its area. This means a comprehensive service of social support. It will cater for the elderly and the handicapped, provide social support for the sick, and will discharge the local authority's responsibilities for children. It will provide probation services to the courts, and after-care for people leaving penal institutions. It will also have to take an interest in, and influence, social development in its area.
In introducing a Bill covering such a wide field, it will be best if at this stage I deal only with its main provisions. 51 Examination of the details will come later.
Part I of the Bill sets out the administrative structure by which the local authorities are to provide the new comprehensive service, and certain powers relating to training, research and assistance to voluntary organisations, which will still have a big part to play. As it has emerged from another place, it provides that the local authorities responsible for the new service will be the councils of counties and cities. The original provision of the Bill was that the large burghs also should have social work functions, and it is only fair to tell the House that at a later stage I will table an amendment to restore them. I would like to explain this intention briefly.
It has been suggested to me that we should not do anything in advance of the Royal Commission's findings. If we waited to see what the shape of local government was to be after the coming recommendations of the Royal Commission on Local Government, Scotland, it may be well into the 1970s before the appointed date under the legislation which comes after the discussions which come after the publication of the Royal Commission's findings. I suggest that, in view of the fact that we established a committee in 1961 to look into this problem, it would be quite wrong to wait for all that time before we took action. We cannot wait until then. We must therefore legislate now.
It is sensible, in putting this new duty on local authorities now, to appreciate that there may well be change within foreseeable time and therefore what we want to do—and this is the thing which moved me from my original position—is to minimise the effects on local authority structure. In other words, we wish to make, not two changes, but one major change.
I think that it would be a major change to remove at the moment these functions from large burghs and I do not think that we would be justified in doing it at present. That is the main reason why I propose the reinstatement of the large burghs in the Bill. There are others, which I will not go into now, but I wish to point out that more than half the population of Scotland is not affected by the inclusion or exclusion of large burghs. More than half the population 52 of Scotland is in the cities and counties which have not a large burgh. The cities and counties which do not contain large burghs will, in any event, be social work authorities.
Part II of the Bill deals with the services which local authorities must provide. Purposely, they are dealt with in broad terms so that the services can evolve as knowledge and experience grows. In other words, they are not tied down to specific services, and, therefore, we shall not be prevented from making the expansion which we may find desirable.
It is true that many of the Clauses in Part II relate to children. There are at present several complete Acts concerned with children and young persons. By contrast, the welfare needs of the elderly and handicapped are covered by a few pretty well scattered Sections in Statutes which have wider purposes. It is sensible, and indeed essential, to distinguish in welfare legislation between children and adults. Children are dependent and defenceless just because they are children. Every child needs someone to fulfil the rôle of parent in his interests. It is for this reason that most of the Clauses in this part of the Bill relate specifically to children. They largely repeat the provisions of earlier Acts dealing with the care and protection of children.
The interests of adults under the Bill raise different considerations. Existing services for adults are provided, both under statute and in practice, for particular categories of people. These categories are often difficult to relate to the facts of social situations. Indeed, attempts to do so have become obstacles to the development of better services. The most important fact is that all these services exist to help people, and, whether we like it or not, people simply will not fit themselves into tidy, mutually exclusive categories.
That is why Part II says so little about categories of people. This is why Clause 12—the key Clause of the Bill—is in completely general terms. Under it, the local authorities are required to make certain services available for the use of every citizen who needs help. In asking for help, he does not have to be able to decide, in the first instance, whether his need is due, for example, to disability or old age, or difficulties with a disturbed child. All that he has to do is to apply for help to 53 the department created under the Bill, and the first job of the local authority services is to help him recognise just what his problem is. Then, together, they can decide how he can be helped.
The main purpose of Clause 12 is to set up in each local authority area a comprehensive service of welfare and support. This is expressed by placing a duty on the local authority to make available advice, guidance and assistance on a scale appropriate to the area. The intention is not that the local authority itself will provide all the possible forms of advice and assistance, although there is very much which it must do, but a great deal of help to people in such situations is given by voluntary organisations and by such bodies as the citizens' advice bureaux. The need for this kind of help is continuing and growing. It will be a duty on the local authority under the Bill to ensure that this kind of service is available and to provide the facilities to back it.
The main thing I would emphasise here is that once the Bill is in operation it will not be necessary for the ordinary person to admit that he is in some way inadequate before feeling able to approach the local authority for help. Just as we have largely got rid of the stigma which used to attach to seeking financial help from public agencies, so it is time that we removed any stigma from the seeking of other kinds of help.
Mention of financial assistance leads me to the remaining parts of Clause 12, dealing mainly with assistance given in kind or in cash. The effect of these provisions is certainly not to encourage local authorities to set up in competition with the Ministry of Social Security as agencies for giving financial help. It is much narrower than this, and in the great bulk of cases in which financial help is justified my right hon. Friend's Department can give it, but we have got to face this, that there are occasional situations in which, for one reason or another, this is not possible, and on some of these occasions the situation might deteriorate quite rapidly if nothing were done.
The purpose of these provisions of Clause 12 is to enable the local authority to act on such occasions to prevent deterioration of the situation. These provisions are, in fact, intended to be a 54 slight widening of the existing powers of the local authority under Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1963 to enable assistance in kind or in cash to be given in circumstances where children are not involved. That existing provision was welcomed by the House in passing the Act, and our experience since then has shown it to be most valuable both in promoting the interests of children and in preventing social breakdown in situations where children are involved. The actual amounts of money which have been used for this purpose are comparatively small, but their benefits have been quite disproportionate to the amount of money required. I have no doubt that the extension of these powers will have a similar result in a wider context.
Clauses 15 to 26 are those which deal with the care of children and I have already explained their place in this part of the Bill. They are based very closely on existing child care provisions which they will supersede in Scotland and I do not think I need say very much about them at this stage.
Clause 27 provides machinery to enable a smooth transfer of the service given to the courts by the present probation service to one provided by the new social work departments. This is something which has caused considerable controversy.
The greater part of the work of a probation officer is carried out away from the courts, and much of it is work with individuals and with families very similar to the work carried out by other social workers. Probation officers have special skills; so do child care officers, psychiatric social workers, medical social workers, and those skilled in family case work.
I feel that the integration of all these skills into a single department will enable it to provide a much greater breadth of service than can be given by any single service at the moment, and this is the gain which all those in need will obtain from the new service, and it would fall short of the objective if so important a service as the probation service were left out, and the service itself, I feel, would lose if it were isolated from this new development.
I recognise, however, that the service does have a special relation with the 55 courts, and that we must see that the courts have confidence in it, and that, as it develops, it will provide an even better service. The probation schemes which this Clause requires to be submitted for my approval are intended to achieve this.
I would like to jump now to Part III and the children's panels and the very considerable change on the lines recommended by the Kilbrandon Committee. Part III deals with the new children's panels which are to be established on the lines recommended by the Kilbrandon Committee. It sets out the circumstances in which a child may be brought before a children's hearing. A children's hearing will be a group of three people who will carry out the functions of the children's panels under the Bill. It sets out the ways in which a children's hearing will be constituted, how it will conduct its work, how the reporter will be appointed; it deals also with the functions of the reporter; the powers of the children's hearings; the rights of appeal of the child and his parents, the review of children's progress by the children's hearing; and a number of related matters.
I think that I should say something about the reporter, because this is a very important new position. His main duty will be to decide whether a child should be brought before the children's hearing. Before reaching this decision he will have received a report about the child and will have completed certain preliminary inquiries. He can then decide whether to proceed at all; or to arrange, with the consent of the parent and the child for voluntary treatment under the provisions of Part II of the Bill; or he can decide to bring the child before the children's hearing. Thereafter the decisions are taken not by him but by the children's hearing itself. The reporter will be appointed by the local authority, but he must be able to act independently, and his position is protected by the requirement that the approval of the Secretary of State is required before he can be dismissed.
The importance of this, of course, is the recognition that, much as we have been able to do in respect of delinquincy, we have not up to now had the success 56 which we had the right to expect or we had hoped for. By having this procedure of follow up—not just the juvenile court sentencing a child and leaving it at that—we shall be able to make some impression upon this very grave and very difficult position.
I am sure that the House and the Committee, later, will examine all these provisions in greater detail and I would like to make upon them only some general comments. A good deal of the power over children will rest in these children's hearings and the powers given in Clause 44 are wide. These wide powers are needed to enable the children's hearings to deal properly and constructively with the wide variety of circumstances which will lead to children being brought before them. The Clause sets out these powers in general terms rather than in specific measures because the children's hearing must be able to apply to each child those measures which the child really needs rather than a specific measure, laid down in Statute, which is the nearest approximation to what the child might need.
Nevertheless, it is only sensible to recognise that to endow an agency with powers of this sort incurs a risk of unjust or unfair treatment as well as of inappropriate treatment, and for this reason we must be sure that the new arrangements have adequate safeguards built into them, safeguards not only against abuse of the rights of the child and his parent, but also against honest mistakes by the children's hearing.
As one safeguard, the children's hearing will work within the rules of procedure which will be drawn up in consultation with the Council on Tribunals. The Council will also observe the effect of these rules in practice so that they can be kept under review. The second and more decisive safeguard is that any decision of the children's hearing will be subject to the right of appeal to the sheriff by either the child or his parent.
There is also the possibility of legal aid in respect of such appeals. This really means "any decision": not only the decision which a children's hearing makes when a child is first brought before it, but any decision reached by a children's hearing at a later date during the supervisory stage.
§ Mr. Patrick Wolrige-Gordon (Aberdeenshire, East)
For clarification of that may I ask: is this appeal to the sheriff an appeal made on the ground of the treatment prescribed for the child by the children's panel?
§ Mr. Ross
It could be. There is a further appeal to the Court of Session on a point of law that we have, therefore, had to build in. These safeguards will be examined in Committee.
I should say something about the children's panels. It is important, also, that the members of the children's panel in each area, and, therefore, of each children's hearing, should be carefully selected as suitable people to use such powers responsibly and should be given whatever training or preparation is necessary to help them to do so.
The procedure by which the members of children's panels will be selected is set out in Schedule 2. The provisions of Schedule 2 are designed to ensure that these members of children's panels will not only be responsible people, but will also be familiar with, and respected in, the communities which will be the concern of the children's panel.
On the other hand, the selection of these people cannot be regarded as an ordinary function of the local authority, and it is important that the people appointed for this purpose should be appointed because of their suitability and their ability to help children and not because of their prominence in any existing organisation or body.
For all these reasons, I have thought it desirable to propose in Schedule 2 that although the selection of people for appointment as members of children's panels should be done on a local basis, their appointment should be made by me.
I want to take this opportunity of saying that in addition to the scope for voluntary work offered by the kinds of organisation which we now have, the establishment of children's panels offers an entirely new field for voluntary effort.
I am sure that in Scotland we have people with this concern for children and for the parents of children who get into trouble who, although they may not have the time to spend on full-time local authority work, could devote a consider- 58 able amount of their ability to this side of community service. I sincerely hope, and am convinced, that they will come forward.
I do not wish to take time now to deal at any length with the remaining parts of the Bill. They will be carefully examined at later stages. I think it more important for me to emphasise the real nature of the changes which this Bill makes in the forms and purposes of public welfare services.
To take the children first, I do not need to remind the House of the concern which is being felt in these days about delinquency. I am convinced, however, that we shall not make much change in the situation by dealing with it emotionally. We have to use our heads as well as our hearts, and we must use both constructively rather than repressively.
The establishment of children's panels will complement the efforts of the local authority in promoting the welfare of the children generally, whether or not their need for help arises through deprivation or some kind of delinquency. Children's panels will not be a soft way of dealing with children who are delinquent. Far from it. The powers which will be available in future will be just as strong as they are now and much more varied. I have no doubt that they will have to take many firm measures in treating and training young people.
What we have to keep in mind all the time is what the Kilbrandon Committee said as its central theme—that is, that what most of these children need is the kind of influence and control which a good parent would be expected to exercise. Those of us who are parents know very well that there are times when we have to be firm with our own children. This, therefore, will be expected of the children's panels, also.
The Bill necessarily deals in detail with children—for reasons I have explained. The changes it will bring about in other fields of social work will be just as great, despite the fact that they are largely to be found in one subsection—Clause 12(1). It is this provision which will require each local authority to provide advice and assistance—or, in other words, social support—for the elderly, for those in nerd of help because of physical or mental handicap, and for those who need 59 help in the home to look after themselves or another person in the household.
The facilities—old folk's homes, hostels and day centres, children's homes, day nurseries, assessment centres, etc.—which the local authority may find it necessary to provide are covered by powers in Clause 60, which deals with residential and other establishments. There, again, the drafting is general so that development and evolution need not be confined by statutory provisions related to particular categories of people.
The Bill will bring to Scotland a new kind of public service. While I believe that there are a few countries with comprehensively organised welfare services, these countries do not have this kind of arrangement we are planning for dealing with children in trouble. No country has made both of these advances, and I am very proud to introduce a pioneering Measure which, I am sure, will be not only good for Scotland, but which might have something to offer to other countries.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Noble (Argyll)
I rise to give a warm welcome to the Bill from this side of the House. As the Secretary of State has said, we are indebted not only to Lord Kilbrandon, who started the concept on which this Bill was based, but to the many other people of differing natures in many organisations in Scotland who have contributed their thoughts and ideas. I remember when Lord Kilbrandon's Report was received in the time that I was Secretary of State. I said to the House then that I would wish it to be discussed by as wide as possible a circle of people who were interested in these problems. Quite clearly, this has been done.
I should like to follow the right hon. Gentleman's plan or technique for dealing with the Second Reading debate. I do not believe that the Bill will pass through its Committee stage very rapidly, because there is such an enormous amount of material in it—material that is very human in its nature—and, therefore, hon. Members without any party divisions at all will have genuine views to express and discuss. But there is a considerable measure of agreement on the need for the Bill, or for something 60 of this kind. I will start by bringing together what I believe are the points where there is no disagreement and then turn to some of the problems where there is at least opportunity for differing views.
The Secretary of State talked about the rapidly changing social conditions of our time. This is true. Perhaps the biggest single factor in this change which we have been forced to notice in the last few years has been the appalling rise in juvenile crime. At the time of the setting-up of the Kilbrandon Committee there were about 23,000 reported cases of juvenile crime. That was a rise of 3,000 on the figures two years before. Since 1961, we have all been aware—and aware with alarm and horror—of the steady increasing rise in crime of all kinds, particularly violent crime and, what is more disturbing perhaps to most of us, the very large percentage of that violent crime which is being committed by young people.
Within that category there is what I call the fragile generation, the teenagers between 14 and 16 who seem to be the hardest and most difficult to handle. The right hon. Gentleman said that those who were parents understood the problems of that age group. Happily, my children have passed out of it. I do not know how many hon. Members have children in that group, but it is a particularly difficult one to handle. Children of that age are fragile in almost every sense of the word. It is often necessary to be firm with them, but if one is too firm one breaks them, and this can be as dangerous for their future as being too kind.
There has been a big increase in the tendency of this age group to get involved in crime. The vast majority of children of that age are normal, happy, well-behaved honest citizens, but that does not, alas, stop the bad section of it getting most of the Press, and when they are given that sort of attention it tends to encourage others to join the group.
We know that this is not a problem simply for parents. It is very much a problem for the educational system, and the Secretary of State and I have indicated support for various reports which are trying to take out of the present educational system some of the second stream, if that is not an unkind way of 61 describing them, people who are getting frustrated in their last years at school, and from that frustration tending to fall into this category of possible delinquents.
Science has not been kind to us. It has been able to invent various pills which children can get hold of and which give them the supposedly necessary "kicks", but too often these youngsters fail to get the other pills which science has provided, and this means that they get into more serious trouble. Of all the children in care in Glasgow today, 41 per cent. are illegitimate. This is, therefore, a genuine family problem, and not just one for the children.
I think that we all agree that what the right hon. Gentleman called a pioneer effort is likely to be successful because there is a clear need for the rationalisation of a great deal of our social work. I was glad that the right hon. Gentleman emphasised that this was a major operation for the local authorities, but added that he hoped—and I think we all agree with him—that this would not mean that the voluntary services would feel that they could rest on their oars because others were doing things on which in the past they had spent a good deal of time.
There are obvious advantages in having the social work services centrally controlled. I do not want at this stage to debate too closely how it should be controlled, whether it should be in city councils, or whether it should go to large burghs. It is important for people to feel that they can go to, or write to—and I use the two expressions to keep my position open—the place where it will be possible to have all their problems dealt with.
My hon. Friend has taken a great deal of trouble over this problem during the last few months. I think that it is universally agreed that there is a need to break down what I call the demarcation disputes between the different services which have been set up for particular purposes over a number of years. We all get cases of people who have been to one service and someone there has shrugged his shoulders and said, "We cannot help", they go to somebody else and are told, "This is not our field at all", and in despair they write to their Members of Parliament, and we then have a real problem finding out to whom should we 62 go, and how we can get the problem solved. I believe that the rationalisation of the services into one centre will be of considerable benefit. Above all, I think that we must make certain that the main attack on most of the problems is a family attack by parents, by the schools, and so on.
It is tempting to regard parents as being responsible for their children's behaviour and, because all the publicity is about children who go wrong, to forget that they have an enormous responsibility for their parents, and perhaps their grandparents, too. Nowadays, when parents get old, or become handicapped, or blind, or difficult for one reason or another, it is too easy for them to be put into some institution. This is a real problem. The right hon. Gentleman said that we were thinking particularly about children because they were dependent and defenceless, but during the last few years I have met many old people who I would have said were just as dependent and just as defenceless as many children. I hope that they will not be forgotten when the Bill is being considered in Committee.
I think that we all agree that if the experiment is to succeed there will have to be a vast expansion of the service as we know it today. I hope that when the Minister winds up the debate he will give us some idea of where these extra people will come from, and how they will be trained. I hope, too, that he will give us some idea of the resulting cost.
If one considers the comparable figures for Scotland and England, one is bound to have a certain feeling of shame, and having been the Secretary of State I do not shirk my fair share of responsibility. In 1966, Scotland had 152 child care officers, whereas England had 2,431. England is enormously further forward than we are. When one considers their qualifications, one realises that in our case a letter of recognition from the Central Training Council in Child Care was held by only 23 of our 152 people, as against 667 in England. Thus, in addition to not having the right number of people, we had a very much lower standard of qualification.
We are going in for a major pioneering scheme. It should not be forgotten that this will mean an enormous problem of 63 getting the necessary staff, because I do not believe that even the English level in 1966 will be anything like satisfactory to deal with the problems which will crop up as soon as we put this scheme into operation. As each comprehensive system begins to work, it will inevitably uncover wider responsibilities which will call for extra staff if they are to meet the obligations set out in Clause 12, and about which the right hon. Gentleman talked. These extra people will be needed if we are to give help to every citizen who needs it. This will be a major problem and I hope that we can have more information about how it will be tackled.
I am prepared to back the Secretary of State in this approach if it means that we must get not only extra men but also extra money, since this is entirely in line with our policy in the social services of concentrating help where it is most needed. The Bill is written around the old, the young, the sick and the mentally sick—all those who especially need help, so they should be given generous help. It has been said that this is a request for extra money, but an extra £2,000 million of taxation is being taken and this is a very high priority for its use.
I turn to some of the problems which are in doubt and dispute. No hon. Member should be ashamed or shy if he does not agree with some parts of the Bill, because it is a big and complicated one. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, the Joint Under-Secretary, said in another place:If I have not been completely convincing, it is simply because of the fact that there is no answer which convinces entirely on one side."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords; 4th April, 1968; Vol. 290, c. 1339.]I believe that that is true not only of the particular item of which he was speaking but of many others. I, like most hon. Members, have received many different pamphlets, letters and documents from people, all completely sincere, but often pointing in exactly opposite directions.
I start with the timing of the Bill. Lord Kilbrandon started in 1961 and now, seven years later, we are introducing not just the Bill he was thinking about but much more. There is urgency, because the crime rate and many other problems 64 are getting worse every day. On balance, I think that the Government's timing is right. I wish that they could have brought in the Bill at the beginning of the next Session, since by then the Royal Commission would have reported and it would be easier to judge some of the issues, although one would not expect the Government to say immediately whether or not they accepted the Report.
This is particularly so on the point which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, of whether the counties and the cities alone should handle this after-care service or whether the large burghs should do it, also. The White Paper came down against large burghs and the Bill favoured them, but the House of Lords reversed that, so there has already been a great variety of thought. There are strong arguments for keeping control of these services in the largest possible area, so I would also come down against the large burghs, mainly because the real problem is getting enough trained staff.
This case can be argued both ways, but these people cannot be plucked from the air. They do not exist; they must be trained. It is more likely that we will get the numbers and quality of staff which are necessary if a comparatively few centres are used as the training areas as well as the main operational areas. I imagine that it is difficult to train solely theoretically: there must be a good deal of field practice also and a few large areas from which staff can filter out into the field are to be preferred to 36, I think, large burghs with comparatively small staffs, in the hope of building up from that to the centre.
I think, therefore, that the House of Lords and the White Paper were right and that the Bill and the Secretary of State's intentions are wrong, but I am sure that this will be a most interesting debate in Committee.
I am in considerable difficulty over the probation service. Everyone is agreed that the children's courts can come right out of the probation service into the child care service without any particular problem, but I am not happy about the rest. The link which the probation service had with the local authorities was not wholly satisfactory. There was much unhappiness about it. In 1962, the Morrison 65 Committee, set up to consider the service in Scotland. Said:The principal cause of the failure of the probation service to develop in Scotland as it should have done is that it has been regarded not as a court service but as a relatively minor Local Authority service.I met the probation officers one or twice at about that time and know that, since they were given rather special status, since the Scottish Home Department took much trouble to build up the morale and structure of the service, it has improved enormously.
This is almost inevitable, as the memoranda which we have all received from the sheriffs, who are in daily contact with the probation service, shows that they feel strongly that it would be a retrograde step to put the service back entirely into the local authority sphere. I know that local authorities pay 50 per cent. of the probation officers' wages, and the Scottish Home Department pays the other 50 per cent., I think, but the service does not regard itself as a local authority service but as a separate service owing allegiance partly to the local authorities but primarily to the courts.
The Secretary of State was not quite fair when he said that much of their work is away from the courts. It must be, because their main function is to advise the courts about the people who come before them. Often, the sheriff may not be certain of the appropriate sentence and therefore wants detailed reports on the conditions and background of the accused before passing sentence. If the sentence is to be right and proper, the skill of the probation officers must be considerable, the courts must have confidence in them and they must spend a great deal of time away from the courts—usually, of course, looking into the problems of offenders before sentence or after release.
But the nature of the work is essentially different because of this speical link with the court. There are two views about this. I do not believe that it is essential for the probation officers to come under the local authorities to get a proper promotion structure and so on. They were not particularly worried either, when I met them, about the exact level of pay. Like everyone else, from time to time they want more, of course, but they are much more concerned with the 66 standing and prestige of their service. This clearly came across to me. If the service is merged within this big single unit, they will lose some of that, although I accept that some, because of their outstanding ability in their fields, will probably become directors. But as directors, they will come away from the courts, which would be losing the advantage of their advice.
It is inevitable that, from time to time, they will have to criticise local authority efforts in the care of children and young people. If they are wholly under the local authorities, it will be difficult for them to make critical comments about their employers. On the whole, I would favour keeping the service for adults out of the local authority comprehensive service. Nothing would be lost and the probation service and the courts might gain.
Juvenile courts raise technical points which would be better considered in Committee, but there is one point of substance which I should like to deal with now. That is, the liberty of the subject, which is just as important for a child as for an adult. Where there is a referral to the hearing, it stems from, in the words of the Clause, "commission of an offence". In the past, legislation has always referred to "alleged" commission of offences. It therefore appears that, before a child gets to the hearing, he is believed to have committed the offence and is apparently not to be subject to the normally accepted rules of law that there will be no caution, charging or presentation of evidence. This may not be so but it appears so from the Bill.
The Secretary of State may say that, if parents or guardians take objection, they have the safeguard that the case will be heard by the sheriff anyway, but, if that is so, there would be no burden of proof of the commission of the alleged act laid on the reporter or the hearing. There is, therefore, a considerable difference between the treatment of children and that of adults who have committed or are alleged to have committed crimes. This wants looking at now as well as in Committee.
I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will tell us why—I do not say that there is any particular reason—according to last week's White Paper called "Children in Trouble" it has been 67 decided to keep the juvenile courts for this country while we have decided to go the other way. I should like to hear more of the argument about this, because I am not certain that I know enough to favour one form or the other. I hope that it is based on an important reason and not merely on a determination to be different from England.
I hope that what is said in the White Paper about the importance of bringing the schools, education generally, and so on, within the framework of dealing with our children and the problems of delinquency will be accomplished, although a little mention is made of this in the Bill. I can see no responsibility being clearly placed on anyone to ensure that that happens. Unless parents are persuaded to work in harmony with the efforts of the schools, we will not achieve our aim.
The Bill has considerable merit. In a number of ways it can be improved, and I trust that in Committee improvements will be made. I hope that this pioneering effort will be successful for the sake of the youth, the sick and the elderly of Scotland.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Gregor Mackenzie (Rutherglen)
I join with the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) in congratulating those who were responsible in the initial stages for the work done in this important sphere. We are indebted to Lord Kilbrandon, his colleagues and those who acted as assessors for the Government in the preparation of the White Paper. They went into this matter in considerable depth and, while I do not agree with all their conclusions, I accept, in broad general terms, the principal proposition that all of the services with which we are concerned should be brought under one roof.
This whole issue has greatly concerned many of us in the last few months. The right hon. Member for Argyll referred to the representations which have been made to him. I, too, have had an enormous postbag and the vast majority of the representations made to me have been sincere. I have been gratified to receive them, not only because of their sincerity but because they show how many people in Scotland care about the provision of social services. These representations 68 have been attended by an expertise that was not seen in social activities in the past.
This large number of representations serves to remind us that if there are so many organisations seeking to work in the social sphere, it must be difficult for people who need help to know the appropriate organisations from which to seek assistance. If, like many hon. Members, I have found it difficult to follow the lines of demarcation, it must be extremely difficult for those who need help to discover the appropriate organisations to consult.
I have felt that many of the representations were based on a fear of the prospect of changing jobs. While this is natural, a number of organisations have expressed concern about their future rôles. When I read the original document, I felt many of the same fears. For example, I wondered whether or not medical officers of health—who, for many years, have played an important part—were to be given due importance in the new scheme with which we are concerned.
I am still concerned about the relationship between general practitioners in some counties and burghs and the new social welfare departments. Those who have made representations to me on this score have a common aim, and it seems that while there may be some friction in the operation of these departments initially, I am sure that in the long term this change will work out for the good.
Although a number of problems need airing, I propose to deal with only a few of the reservations that have been expressed in the discussion of this subject, both here and throughout Scotland. Like others, I have wondered whether or not this is the right time to introduce a Bill of this kind. Some have suggested that we should wait for the report of the Royal Commission. However, so many problems are pinpointed in the White Paper that I do not believe we can afford to wait, perhaps until the 'seventies, for that report. I will, therefore, list only a few of the items that are worrying me.
On page 5 of the White Paper reference is made to the growth of new housing estates, the lack in some cases of amenities, the shortage of recreational facilities in new schemes and the problems that are caused. There are new housing schemes in my constituency. 69 Some ate extremely good while others are not so good. Some lack proper social and recreational facilities and this lack has resulted in some serious problems being created. These problems have, in the main, been linked with young people who have got into trouble and much has been said about vandalism. We cannot afford to ignore this problem. It has been with us for a long time and if we are to tackle it effectively, we need the establishment immediately of the sort of departments envisaged in the Bill.
I have for a considerable time been concerned with the problem of caring and educating people in the community, from both the educational point of view and the welfare of the aged. Indeed, I made my maiden speech on this subject. I have referred to the increased number of pensioners and the problems caused to those who are in employment by the ever-increasing number of retired people. We have heard a lot about this in the last few years, but, unhappily, not enough has been done to solve the problem. It must be tackled in a co-ordinated fashion if we are to make progress with it.
In recent local elections and elsewhere much has been said about the growth of vandalism in relation to housing schemes. Many people have raised the subject with me—I snow that many of my hon. Friends could say the same—in recent weeks and I assure the House the increased crime rate is causing concern. I have been distressed to note, from studying the statistics, that crime in recent years has been on the increase while there was a considerable drop in the crime rate earlier in the century.
No doubt the activities of the traditional social services during the last half century, with the provision of housing and other amenities, has something to do with the trend of statistics. I am, however, distressed to find that the growth of crime has been looked upon in a negative way and has not been tackled positively. I hope that positive action will result from the new scheme of things we are considering.
§ Mr. Noble
I agree that statistics took a different trend earlier in the century. I interrupt the hon. Gentleman because I do not think that he means to say that he is not as worried as everybody else by the fact that, in the last five years, the 70 number of crimes of violence has more than doubled.
§ Mr. Mackenzie
I admit that and I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I was not being complacent. I have said publicly that I am as concerned as anybody, but that we should put the matter in its proper perspective. There may be differences of opinion about how we can best tackle the problem. I am saying that, instead of tackling it in a negative way, we should be positive in the social work that we do.
One of the biggest problems facing hon. Members concerns the administrative areas and whether or not large burghs should be included. I have had some experience of the three types of organisation involved. I spent most of my adult life before coming here as a member of a town council and of a large city. I now represent a constituency which is evenly divided between burgh and county. I must, therefore, steer a middle course. However, that is not why I suggest a course of action which I think might be the answer, but because I like to think that the experience I have had in this matter gives me the right to comment on it.
I have found that all three types of organisation can be run for good or bad. I have found some which are extremely well run and some which are exceedingly bad. If I were sick, I would rather find myself in one of the industrial large burghs in the central belt of Scotland than in some of the northern counties of Scotland which, with respect to these areas, have not shown as much progress as we might have hoped. I appreciate that this is very much a matter of individual judgment and that, in considering whether or not the burghs should be included, one cannot generalise too much.
Some people have suggested that we should await the Royal Commission's report before defining the areas of social work in the new scheme. I am rather impatient with those who have already parcelled up the various areas of Scotland without waiting for the Royal Commission's findings and the Government's views on them. Many people are already mentally busy wiping out some of our older communities without giving thought to the people who live in them—all this in the interest of greater administrative areas.
71 I do not believe that because an administrative area is big it is necessarily efficient. The remoteness of some areas makes it difficult to administer some types of provision. I gather that the White Paper takes the same view because, on balance, it seems to prefer the course I, like others, have suggested in that although it is by no means emphatic on the subject, it rather makes the case for the inclusion of large burghs and lists the functions of the new social work departments and agencies concerned with local government. It seems to suggest that, for hospitals and education, it should work on a county rather than a large burgh basis.
The case made in the White Paper on housing, health and welfare is germane to this discussion. The problems in social work with which we are dealing can, I believe, best be tackled on a fairly small area basis. In our social work we require directors, staff and councillors who have intimate knowledge of local conditions. They must know the right agencies, voluntary and statutory, to consult when tackling individual problems.
My area operates a service for old people in precisely the manner that the Bill envisages that the scheme will be run nationally. It has always operated on the basis of one door on which anyone can knock; he is then directed to the department best suited to his needs. This is what I want to see happen when the new social work departments operate.
Many of these problems are caused by bad housing and the problem families which come from it. The White Paper stresses that the social work director and his staff have an important part to play, and valuable guidance and advice to offer, in the building of new housing schemes in future. It would be wrong if these two organisations did not work together for the provision of better housing. Housing has been a large burgh function for a long time. It is an integral part of our system. I hope that it will continue to be so.
I mentioned earlier that general practitioners were concerned about whether their relationships with the new social work director would be as reasonable and as pleasant as they had been with the medical officer of health. A number of general practitioners in Rutherglen have 72 suggested that, if they were obliged to refer cases from Rutherglen to the centre of a county area or a larger administrative area, they would soon lose personal contact with their patients. This troubles them greatly. The same applies to some voluntary organisations. I hope that these voluntary organisations, which are locally based will be used to the full.
Residential care presents a problem. I said earlier that I served for a long time on a large city council. At one stage we found difficulty when we moved people from one part of the city to another. I take my full share of responsibility for that. At the time I thought that was the right way to handle it. Difficulty arose if an old person was moved from an area where he had lived all his life to an area a considerable distance away. This does not apply to the same extent when working on a large burgh basis.
On the grounds of health and housing there is little reason why we should tear up a perfectly good organisation. The professional advice contained in a number of circulars which I have received is in favour of excluding the large burghs. Although I respect the judgment of the professional organisations, I have a very sincere respect for the stature of local councillors, many of whom have been operating in this field for many years. They have experience of the organisation. They have expressed the legitimate hopes of the people in these communities who want to manage their own services.
I was astonished when I read the report of the debate in another place to see that one noble Lord had suggested that the fact that large burghs wanted to have power to organise their own services was not a very good reason for giving them power. The White Paper was sent to all organisations, large burghs included, for their comments; and we should pay heed to their comments. I am delighted that the Secretary of State proposes to include large burghs. After all, no substantial functions will be taken either from the counties of cities or from the cities.
There has been a little misconception about this. One noble Lord, talking in a sense about my own county, suggested that it was to be torn apart. Those who had read the Bill in greater detail will not share his conclusion. There must be a great deal of live and let live. The people 73 who live in large burghs want to keep these services. Tomorrow, they will be taking part in their local elections and will be discussing housing and health. They have also expressed the desire to keep the functions they presently have. I see no objection to this perfectly legitimate aspiration. I trust that the Secretary of State will stick to his principles in Committee.
With these comments, I welcome the Bill.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)
This is a mast important Bill for Scotland. Like the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Gregor Mackenzie), I find it a little difficult to be definite about some of its controversial parts. I am not sure that it is yet beyond doubt that the new proposals will prove to be more efficient in practice, nor that the staff will be available. To begin with, the social work department will lose district nurses and health visitors, because they will be engaged on medical work.
There are three controversial points about the Bill. First, is the timing right? There is much to be said for taking action now. The Kilbrandon Committee, which was set up in 1961, issued its Report in 1964. Even now, action may not be taken till 1970. That is a long delay from the conception of the idea to its being put into practice. Much, too, can be said for delay until it is known what form local government reorganisation will take.
All of us who have read the report of the Second Reading debate in another place will be disappointed at the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that it might not be possible to put local government reform into practice before 1975. I hope that it will be done much before then. On balance, it is right to go ahead with the structure and framework of the new social work scheme. It may be behind the Government's thinking that in the long term the new structure may develop into area health boards on a rather bigger scale than is envisaged in the Bill, It is important always to remember that size does not necessarily provide either efficiency or economy.
I come to the position of large burghs. I, like the hon. Member for Rutherglen, must steer a middle road, because I repre- 74 sent both a county and a large burgh. Hon. Members have received many representations from all the important organisations interested in social welfare in Scotland. At this stage it is only the Secretary of State and the Convention of Royal Burghs that have come down firmly on the side of the large burghs having their own social work departments. The weight of opinion at the moment is thus not on the side of the large burghs.
Placed against that weight of opinion are the views of another place and of many bodies. I still find it hard to draw a definite line. Some burghs have a close association with counties. Some are very progressive, as is the Burgh of Dumfries: it provides many facilities under its medical officers of health—homes for the elderly, for the disabled, for children; meals on wheels, home helps, and also many first-class recreational facilities. Not all authorities are as progressive as that. I wonder how much pressure the Government have put on backward authorities in recent years to bring their social work facilities up to the standard of the best.
It is very true that social work begins with housing. We must have good housing if we are to overcome the problems we are dealing with today. This is a good reason for keeping a smaller closely knit unit for social work and thereby encouraging a large burgh to have such a unit. Many burghs believe that size is not a hindrance. If they have been progressive they fear that they may be penalised if they are to lose services which are to be transferred to the counties. They have shown that they can do tremendous pioneering work if the willingness is there and they are able to use the experience of part-time experts. There are many experts in Scotland who will give their services part-time to helping smaller burghs which cannot afford to have whole-time experts.
We have to look at the situation in which we want uniformity throughout Scotland and in this we are considering larger units. I would support the larger units with some degree of misgiving because I think that the large burghs which are progressive and enterprising deserve to be supported. I hoped that the Secretary of State would today make a stronger case for changing the Bill in 75 this respect. We shall no doubt discuss this in detail in Committee. I hope that there will be a positive effort by the Government to encourage voluntary combination between burghs and counties where they see that that would be an advantage.
In many cases now counties and burghs combine their children and probation committees. They do so with great friendship and progressive results. The crux of the decision whether or not to keep the burghs separate from the counties will come in relation to the question of whether or not it is possible to provide staff for both. This is one of the most important considerations.
The third controversial point is over children's panels. This is a big step away from the present procedure. We must be absolutely certain that we are right about it. There are many doubts which will have to be dispelled between now and the time when the Bill becomes an Act. It is important to ask whether the panel will be seen to be a deterrent. At present, quite rightly, sittings are in private, but I wonder how a misguided juvenile will realise the power that the panels will have if nothing is said about them.
A tremendous amount of public relations work will have to be done by social work departments to educate children into seeing that this is a first-class idea and that it will be effective. If it is effective it will be a deterrent; that is important. If it is not a deterrent to children who misbehave, we shall be wasting our time. I hope that when he winds up the Under-Secretary will say why Scotland and England are going different ways in view of the fact that we have recently had the White Paper, "Children in Trouble", which deals differently with this matter.
Who will be the reporter? That is an unhappy title and I hope that in Committee we can find something more exciting. In the Kilbrandon Report it was suggested that the reporter should bean officer combining a legal qualification with a period of administrative experience relating to the child welfare and educational services".I do not think many people, men or women, will fulfil those exacting qualifi- 76 cations. Who will be the chairmen and members of the panels? What training will they receive? I hope that the Under-Secretary will be fairly expansive on this, because many organisations in Scotland are keen to know how the panels will be developed.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) spoke about the probation service. This has done, and is doing, a fine job. Should we disturb it? Should we let it remain at the disposal of the courts at it is at the moment, even if only for the purpose of dealing with adults? Should we disrupt the present career structure in the service? We should bear in mind the recommendations of the Sheriff Substitute Association.
The Kilbrandon Committee concentrated on juvenile delinquency. That is another dreadful term and I hope that we can find something better. The terms of the remit were not on the causes of delinquency, but on the machinery by which the existing law works and the treatment thereafter. The emphasis in the Bill is on rehabilitation. The tenor is in the direction of the expansion of social and family case work rather than in the machinery which Lord Kilbrandon's Committee envisaged. I think that the prevention of unhappiness is more important than the rescue operations which many social workers have to undertake because of lack of numbers and because there is no alternative.
In social work there is lack of co-ordination. Voluntary services—to which we owe so much—may overlap, but there is, and always will be, a most important place for those who wish to give their services free. They must be helped to do so. The Secretary of State was very right to pay warm tribute to the voluntary social services. It must be explained to them that they must not relax in the work they are doing because there will be a place for them for many years ahead. Much or the success of the new social work departments will depend on the new director. What sort of man or woman is envisaged and what will be the qualifications? This will be a very big job.
I wonder, rather as the hon. Member for Rutherglen did, why the medical officers of health are not being brought into the scheme. So much depends on 77 health, particularly mental health, and a doctor's sympathetic and knowledgeable approach could be invaluable. Over recent years, medical officers of health have done much of the welfare work of which we are speaking now.
If they are to lose this responsibility, their career structure may disintegrate because their responsibilities will be so much reduced. Because medical officers of health are so important, I want the Under-Secretary of State to enlarge on what the future holds for these doctors who serve our local authorities so well. Apparently, medical officers of health will have little beyond school health, the inspection of food, and the other statutory obligations to carry out in future.
I hope, also—this is very important—that we shall be told a little more about where the National Health Service will fit into the social work department structure and what form of co-ordination and co-operetion the Secretary of State envisages. Social work departments will be responsible for residential homes, geriatric homes and children's home, yet there is little in the Bill about their duties in this respect or about the financial implications.
When will the staff come from in the early stages? We are short of children's officers now. Will the Government make a great effort in training? I am sure, because the Secretary of State is determined to make the Bill a success, that he will institute training for social workers. Throughout all our deliberations, the criterion for help must be need, and, if help is required, we must ensure that it is available. It is most important that we have the staff to look after the various categories. Young people must come first, and I hope that there will be a determined effort to guide parents whose children are of the difficult type covered by the Bill. We must have sufficient staff, in addition, to guide the elderly, who are often reluctant to turn for help when they really need it.
We shall need large numbers of staff to do the case work with individuals, group work and community work, as well as family case workers and psychiatric social workers. These are few and far between now, but they are vital. In the Scottish Grand Committee, last June, I 78 spoke about the scarcity of psychiatric clinics and hospitals and, in particular, about the difficult geographical location of Larbert, where psychiatrically sick children go at present, and of the difficulty of finding accommodation for mentally deficient adolescents. Case workers can help tremendously, as do the staff of the Crichton Royal Hospital, at Dumfries, who go out into the town to help when and where necessary. We are short of these highly qualified staff, and short of accommodation. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will tell us how matters are developing in this respect.
All these case workers are specialists with qualifications at present. I do not imagine that anyone takes up this type of work without a calling, just as a doctor has a calling. There is some concern that, in future, they will all be lumped together in one service with, in effect, one general qualification. I know that they will all co-operate, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said on 23rd April during the Committee stage in another place, rather playing down the specialist qualifications which many workers have now; but I know that some concern is felt.
Now, a word about the probation service and the children's panel. Like all hon. Members, I am deeply concerned at the rise in juvenile crime. We must be certain that what we do is effective in helping to stem the rise in juvenile crime over recent years. We have all read the memoranda submitted by the various organisations associated with the probation service, supported by the service itself, emphasising the specialised knowledge and special relationship with the courts which probation officers have, and the close co-operation between themselves and the local authorities, although they are not strictly employees of the local authorities. But we must be concerned about the worry expressed by probation officers. It is most important to use their skill, particularly in the next few years, while we are developing the social work department, which is bound to take a little time.
I think it right—I understand that the probation service agrees—that children under 16 should become the responsibility of the social work department, but a 79 case can be made for the probation service looking after adults, in close co-operation with the courts. I say that because the probation service already has close connections with the prisons and young offenders' institutions. I am sure that, unhappily, those who are at young offenders' institutions will, after they leave, be the persons most in need of help from the probation service. Young men in their early twenties who have been to an institution must be got on the right road and into gainful employment in the years to come. This work is very specialised, and the probation service, if still in being, might well be the best to take it on.
The details of the panels will give rise to interesting discussion in Committee. We all accept the important point made by the Secretary of State, that this is a pioneering Measure. We give it a general welcome in principle, but we must keep as our objective that social welfare in the broadest sense must be made available to all those in need, easily available and, if possible, under one umbrella. Nevertheless, we must always bear in mind that the country, the local authorities and the taxpayers do not have a bottomless purse. We have to balance the need for the great help which must be given to people in trouble with the cost to the community. However, all in all, this has every appearance of being a most useful and helpful Bill for Scotland, and I give it a welcome.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. George Willis (Edinburgh, East)
The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) concluded by saying that while social welfare work is important we should consider the cost. If there is one thing on which we should be able to spend money, as a fairly affluent society, it is on trying to prevent the steady increase in crime. If not, the future is bleak.
I support the Bill with a certain amount of pleasure because we often discuss crime from the point of view of deterrents, whether we should have hanging and birching, whether sentencing is too severe, whether the police should have greater or fewer powers, and so on, but very rarely debate something which at least tries to take some steps to prevent 80 the growth of crime. That is of paramount importance today.
The Bill flowed from the Kilbrandon Committee's Report, which was concerned with the treatment of children, young offenders, in a constructive manner that would help to keep them from a possible life of crime, to try to prevent the child from going from ordinary offences to a general life of crime. That is why it is pleasant on this occasion to be considering something rather more constructive than we frequently consider.
I agree that dealing with crime is important, but prevention if we can achieve it, is far more important. I recognise that how crime is dealt with may have some bearing on prevention, but I want us to get at the roots of the problem. We do not spend enough time considering this, and we must consider it in a much wider context than we do at present.
We are living in an age of great social change. Habits, traditions and social values have been changing and are changing rapidly. We rarely consider the effect of this on families and children, and on the codes of behaviour that we see developing in the larger conurbations. We must spend much more time considering some of these matters if we hope to start to tackle this enormous social problem. I welcome the Bill for that reason.
There was a time when I rather questioned the wisdom of proceeding with the Bill at present, since the Royal Commission on Local Government is expected to recommend fairly radical changes in our local government structure. I understand that we may have its report at the end of the year or the beginning of next year, and we must consider whether we should proceed with large-scale local government reorganisation in the interim.
However, the Government have taken the view that it may be several years before we can deal with the Royal Commission's report, and we cannot afford to wait longer to deal with the Kilbrandon Committee's Report and the exercises that flowed from it. On balance, I am prepared to accept that the Government are probably right, though I cannot give them more enthusiastic support than that.
This consideration leads me to the conclusion that the Government are wise to amend the Bill, as it has come from the Lords, to include large burghs as one of the local authorities. It would be 81 quite wrong at present to take from local authorities services which they already possess and create a considerable new local government structure—in other words, to reorganise a fairly wide section of local government services, bringing them under a new authority, at the very time we expect the Royal Commission to recommend changes in local government structure, since it will probably be the beginning of next year before the Bill comes into operation.
In the circumstances, we should interfere as little as possible with the existing services. If what we hear is correct, the Royal Commission will make very important recommendations, perhaps suggesting regional authorities. If so, we should get the worst of all possible worlds, because we should create a new service and ask it to get on with the job just when it was being told that its structure might be altered again. We cannot maintain satisfactory morale among local government servants or employees or social workers—call them what we will—in those circumstances. Therefore, in seeking to bring the large burghs back into the Bill the Government are taking the right course.
There are all the other arguments about the nature of the services performed by the large burghs, but apart from them, purely from an administrative point of view it makes sense, and if there are to be other changes arising from the Royal Commission's report we shall be able to make them in due course. I do not think that it is right to interfere with services twice within a comparatively short period and to expect success. If burghs do not have the necessary services or are not large enough to support them, the Bill makes provision for them to seek the co-operation of other burghs or the county, so there is no reason why this structure should not work. Therefore, I support the Government in their endeavours to make this change.
I am in a bit of a quandary over the probation services because at present they are on a county basis except in one or two cases where they come under the burgh. My argument logically suggests that we should not interfere with the probation services. I have had very great doubts and find it very difficult to sum up the arguments for and against this. There seems to me to be a case for 82 the absorption of the probation service into the new social work service. I have examined the reasons why it is suggested that this might be inappropriate, such as their involvement in court work, concern with after-care treatment and so on, but I cannot see why this work could not be done by a probation service which is absorbed within the social work service.
At the same time, we must appreciate that the probation service has built itself up into something thoroughly worth while and that its training and structure have been improved enormously recently. One can readily understand the fears about its being merged into a new service with no guarantees on what the probation officers have won for themselevs over the past few years.
I hope that, if the decision is to merge the probation service into the social work service, the Government will see what can be done to reassure those in the service about their future. This is important. I cannot help feeling that, underlying much of the opposition to the merging of these two services, is concern about the future.
Looking at it as objectively as one can, it seems that the probation work could well be performed within the framework of the social work service but it is organised at present on a county basis and that structure will have to be interfered with. On balance I am inclined to think that we could well do this at present.
The hon. Member for Dumfries spoke about the children's panels and their deterrent effects. I thought that the aim of Kilbrandon was to get away from the criminal aspects of children's courts, and that we were thinking, not so much of deterrence, but of using the children's panels to help both the child and the family in taking the steps necessary for the child to move away from the path down which it has perhaps taken one or two steps.
I thought that the idea was to get away from the stigma of treating a child as a criminal for a trivial offence and that we now planned to deal with offences in a wider and more reformative manner than the juvenile courts deal with them. I was, therefore, surprised when the hon. Member argued that we must not lose 83 sight of the deterrent value of children's courts and he hoped that this would be carried into the new system.
§ Mr. Monro
The right hon. Gentleman is putting the wrong emphasis on what I was saying. I pointed out that children now know that there are juvenile courts and that this is where they will end up if they misbehave. I said that it would be a preventive measure if they knew in future that if they misbehaved themselves they would go before children's panels. Surely, in the end, the aim is to prevent crime rather than bring the children before a court or a panel.
§ Mr. Willis
Despite the knowledge of children that they will go before juvenile courts, delinquency does not seem to have been prevented. The roots of delinquency are far deeper than simple deterrence. The emphasis now is surely on the reformative aspect—what can be done socially to try to assist the child to lead a responsible life which will be of use to himself primarily but also to the community. I hope that we shall not hear too much of this nonsense—and much of it is nonsense—about deterrence. Deterrence may have a part to play, but these other aspects of dealing with crime are far more important.
At a time when we are trying to remove children from the criminal atmosphere of the children's courts to the atmosphere of the children's panels, we might have looked at the Scottish practice of fingerprinting and photographing children. This is not done in England, but in Scotland a boy of eight or nine can be taken to court, fingerprinted and photographed. That might be all very well if all of us were fingerprinted and photographed, but I am not sure that the effect at present on the mind of a young boy is a good thing.
I know that the police think this practice a good thing and that it helps them to catch criminals. But I have not heard it claimed that the rate of crime detection in Glasgow is higher than that of the similiar conurbations in England, where this practice is not carried out. We should look at the possibility of making it necessary to have a court order before children of eight or nine years old can be fingerprinted and photographed.
84 I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on the manner in which they have dealt with the Report and all which has flowed from it and also on the way in which they have sought advice from all kinds of people and organisations. They have carried out the job in a splendid manner—one which could be usefully followed in other things.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie (Ross and Cromarty)
This Bill will be generally welcomed throughout Scotland because it is a good Bill. The recommendations are based on the Kilbrandon Report and the White Paper on Social Services and the Community. These Reports were produced after an exhaustive study of social conditions in Scotland with particular reference to children and young people. This is where the importance of the Bill lies.
It is most interesting to see the large number of bodies which are carrying on social work at present and which have written to hon. Members with their comments. It is also interesting to note that, in the main, they welcome the Bill while making suggestions as to how it could be improved in various directions. It is encouraging that they have given the Bill this welcome because it augurs well for co-operation in future, when it reaches the Statute Book.
In dealing with this question, it is necessary to give close study to the size of the unit to be administered. Here we come to the point that there seems to be some doubt as to whether large burghs should have their own authorities. I should be grateful if the Under-Secretary of State would tell us where the line of demarcation is between a small and a large burgh. In the north of Scotland, in particular, where county council services are based on the largest burgh in the area, it would be a waste of time and energy to set up two different organisations. But I realise that, where there are large burghs, it is a difficult matter. If we could be told where the line of demarcation is, it would simplify the matter for us.
The main purpose of the Bill is to make the social services more efficient and, of course, we must always aim at 85 efficiency consistent with the proper use of resources available. The question of the recruitment of staff is very important and I think that it will be agreed that, in a fairly large unit, it would be easier to recruit staff because there would be better opportunities for promotion.
On the other hand, it might be a disadvantage to have too large a unit, because in this work it is very important that members of staff should keep in close contact with those for whom they are responsible. The importance of personal knowledge of the background of people involved, especially children, cannot be over-stated. In this respect, the social welfare services are entirely different from other services. This is the main reason for their success, because local authorities have always appointed people who knew the background of those with whom they were dealing. It is also very important to stress that there will always be plenty of work for voluntary bodies, and we should not introduce anything into the Bill which would discourage those who are prepared to undertake social works, especially on behalf of the elderly.
It is important that the right people should be chosen for the children's panel. They will do a power of good with the right people. I am sure that there are plenty of people prepared to do this work. The question of probation seems to cause some concern and it might be studied further and clarified in Committee. I know that there is some concern among probation officers. The Royal Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has a very fine record of service and those of us who have been in contact with it appreciate its fine work. I hope that its services will still be available to carry out this good work. It would be a pity if it were curtailed, because there will always be work for the Society to do.
Time is important. The Royal Commission on Local Government will be reporting soon. I think that the Secretary of State has said that he expects that the new organisation would be set up and working by 1969 or 1970. If the Royal Commission is to report at the end of this year or early next year, this Government, with their record for passing legislation at a rapid speed, could surely wait until they have had time to study 86 the report. There is no doubt that there will be changes. We do not know what the Commission will report but there will be boundary changes, and so forth. For the matter of a year or two years at the most, it is not worth going ahead. It will be better to wait until there is a clear picture of how the areas are to be organised. There may be other reasons which we will hear from the Under-Secretary.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Norman Buchan)
I think that we have it wrong here. The Secretary of State suggested that it would be into the 'seventies before any reorganisation took place after the Royal Commission's report.
§ Mr. Mackenzie
I cannot see that there is all that urgency if the Royal Commission is to report at the end of this year, or early next year. We might make a better organisation with fewer changes. I am convinced that if we pass this Measure before the report is available, some changes will be necessary. With these remarks I welcome the Bill, which I am sure will be a real boon to Scotland.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie) has returned to the theme of timing. This has been one of the major themes, if not the major theme, in the arguments that have centred around the Bill. I was a bit doubtful about the advisability of going ahead with the Bill at this moment. There is a substantial argument in the point that, even when the Royal Commission reports, and it is expected that the report will be available perhaps at the end of this year or the middle of next, it will certainly be a long time, well into the 'seventies before effective action can be taken on the report. We might say therefore, that if there is this need for improvement, as urgent as most authorities have said—and judging by our own record in Scotland it seems that something has to be done quickly—then the important thing is to go ahead and begin to do something.
We should get something started in such a way as will require not to be un-done or require as little undoing as foresight will permit us to achieve. We might not be able to get to the position 87 of knowing just what we do not require to undo, but this argument of counties versus large burghs is an important point to bear in mind. At this stage, we do not want to do things that we will have to radically undo.
I was interested in the approach of the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro). He began by saying that he represented a large burgh and a county, and, therefore, he could be expected to have a certain amount of division in his interests, loyalties and attitudes—his bias would not be as confirmed as we might expecte it to be if he were representing solely one or the other. I might say that I have a little bit of a county in my constituency, and I represent accordingly a bit of a county as well as a large burgh.
I was particularly interested in the hon. Gentleman's approach, because it was so tentative. There were one or two points on which he had made up his mind, but by and large, he was asking questions. There were doubts, this might be so, that might be so, let us be cautious and so on. I thoroughly agree. This is a situation when any of us who are firm about anything, or say that we know exactly what should be done, must be regarded as very foolish.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), who is usually very positive in his attitude, on this occasion spoke with a large measure of caution.
We are trying here to deal in a comprehensive way with that which has always up to now been dealt with piecemeal. We have introduced services to deal with children. We have introduced services to deal with old people. Each is a separate service which grew up, in the early stages, from the work of the medical officers of health. They have taken on additional functions and have become overloaded. Separatism, in a social sense and not a political sense, is a characteristic of the social services.
I do not think I exaggerate when I say that all hon. Members have received dozens of communications about the Bill. Within the past two or three days I have received a communication, the first part of which reads:Memorandum of the views of a professional working party, representing:88Association of Child Care Officers, Association of Family Case Workers, Association of Psychiatric Social Workers, Association of Social Workers, Institute of Medical Social Workers, Moral Welfare Workers Association, Society of Mental Welfare Officers.We have had very many such communications. With such a multiplicity of organisations it is not surprising that we ourselves are a bit tentative in our approach on co-ordination and unification.
I would ask that my right hon. Friend and his junior Ministers, including the Minister of State, should not be too firmly fixed in their ideas as to how best to deal with this. Perhaps during the Committee stage some sensible ideas might emerge. I am not satisfied that the health service, the medical officers of health and their departments are in their proper place. Perhaps a unification of health and welfare services might be a better core around which to build than is social work, with the separation between health and the multiplicity of other services. The health organisation, which does have recognisable skills, might provide a better approach to bringing the services together than the social workers.
The man who holds a key position in the building of a welfare, health and social service is the general practitioner. Unfortunately, all general practitioners are not prepared to co-operate. The general practitioner goes into every home and knows intimately the people who are most in need of assistance. All too often he denies his willing co-operation to enable society to build the comprehensive, united social service that we all wish to achieve. If my right hon. and hon. Friends can bring the general practitioners into the service, this will be a tremendous advance.
There is a change of attitude with the health centres that are being developed. I hope that they will grow up rapidly and meet the deficiencies that exist.
I am very concerned with the inclusion of the large burghs. I must compliment my right hon. and hon. Friends upon the facilities they have made available to us to argue the case. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite might feel a slight sense of grievance. When the White Paper was published the Government expressed their readiness to hear what the Scottish Members of Parliament had to say. It may well be that if hon. Gentlemen opposite had had some views they 89 wished to express facilities might have been afforded to them.
We had a series of meetings, which was a good thing. It would be a good thing with other measures of importance that as much discussion as possible should take place among Members of Parliament, so that we are not presented with a fait accompli, before we have had a chance to say what we think about it.
The initial White Paper came down on the side of excluding the large burghs. There must have been some fairly powerful advocates of this point of view at an early stage, because my right hon. Friend adopted that point of view and agreed that the large burghs should be excluded. Then better counsel prevailed. Many of my colleagues support me in this. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton), who is a sensible, well-balanced man, who weighs the pros and cons of an argument, and who has a bias towards the counties, when he comes to weigh this up will come down on this side too.
§ Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)
I want to disabuse the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson). I am afraid, after listening to his peroration, I cannot agree. In fact he has now convinced me that it should be counties and cities.
§ Mr. Lawson
I hope that in course of time the hon. Member for Bothwell can and will get rid of his grudge. There are very powerful arguments. I am not blindly supporting large burghs. If I thought the case was a bad one, I would say so. But the case here is very good. I do not think that I have anything new to say, but there are certain points which should be underlined.
The first point is that we should ensure, as far as possible, that we do not have to undo what we have already done. Consider the changes which will be wrought and the powers which will be taken from the large burghs. They will be deprived virtually of half their activities. We know the kind of feeling which this sort of thing generates. However, they will be left with certain other activities. In these circumstances, there is the possibility of cleavages of interest and of service which will not hasten forward the process of unification.
90 Let me put this point to my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell, who I know is listening with great care. Suppose that the separation were carried out but that there remained with the large burghs the power of building and allocating houses. We know that there are such things as problem families and that any housing authority would be delighted to get rid of its problem families. Think what the situation would be if the social work department which had the problem family as its major concern had to appeal to a large burgh to allow the family to continue in a house when the large burgh had given it opportunity after opportunity and was fed up and had said, "We want to put it out". In other words, by making the separation we should be putting the large burgh in such a position that it could easily get rid of its problem families and turn them over to the social work department, a county authority.
I hope that that would not be done, but there would be a powerful temptation to do it. That is one example of cleavage of interest. The large burgh will be both the housing authority and the welfare authority, and it could not get rid of the problem family because to do so would merely shift it to another department. But if it could shift it outside its orbit, it might well be tempted—I put it no higher—to do so.
Similarly one can think of cleavage of interest between health and welfare departments and the social work departments. The medical officer of health has a whole range of welfare activities—including, in my constituency, care for old people, concern with the nature and standing of the homes for old people; a sheltered workshop has recently been set up—which will come within the scope of the social work department. One can readily see that, with the large burgh having a separate existence and separate interests from the social work department—and, unfortunately, relations between county and burgh are not always as harmonious as we should like—the possibility is that services will be rendered much less well than they are now. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell would not want that to happen, but there is the possibility of its happening.
What may we expect from the Royal Commission? It is very unlikely—and 91 perhaps I am saying something which will provoke a lot of anger—that the Royal Commission will recommend the continuance of the existing county councils. It is feasible that it will recommend the setting up of some form of regional authority as the top tier and a second-tier authority operating within the region. It is very likely that the second-tier authority will aways have as the core the population centre in that area. In all likelihood, the large burghs, and, in many cases, perhaps the smaller burghs, will be the centre which will carry out these services. Therefore, we should be careful about what we do and ensure that we confine what we will need to undo to the minimum. If this forecasting is right—and it is reasonable to take it as right—there will be very little undoing required in those services, because the services will be based upon the population centres. Even with the counties operating those services, they will be obliged to operate them from the population centres. Then they can be utilised, extended and built upon when we have the Royal Commission's report if it recommends moving along such lines.
That is no doubt a question which will arise in Committee, but it would seem to me from what I have heard that sense will prevail and that the Government's intention also will prevail. This is my main point on Second Reading, although I hope to say much more in Committee.
The question of delinquency is troublesome. As a boy, I grew up in a pretty poor part of a big city. We used to compare ourselves with certain foreign people—I will not say who they were. When we had a dispute, we used our fists. When the other people had a dispute, they used the knife. We regarded this with contempt. We disliked it intensely. It might not have been so bad to use a cudgel, but the use of a knife was not part of our way of thinking; it was alien to us. Unfortunately, it now seems to have become accepted as part of the way of thinking and mode of action of a large number of youngsters. I wonder to what extent our organs of publicity are to blame.
A great deal of fuss is made and there is much publicity about certain things which take place. Youngsters pick ideas 92 from the air. But how are they put in the air? They are put in the air through the medium of the Press and television and in other ways. We imitate. We must recognise how imitative people are. The young man who shot the German student confessed that he did it because someone had just shot Dr. Martin Luther King. It is a characteristic of people that they imitate. This is how we learn to speak and to keep ourselves clean. We base ourselves on what we hear and see. Our organs of publicity bear a very large part of the responsibility for the charactertistic of resorting to use of the knife, which I find so contemptuous and which was so alien to my way of thinking as a boy. It might be a very good thing if they were to work the other way and try to develop a contempt for this kind of thing as not being activities we expect youngsters in our society to engage in.
There are other features of our society which, as my hon. Friend, the Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Gregor Mackenzie) and others have said, we ought to be looking at much more closely than we have done before, as, for instance, developing punishment as though it were virtually the only means of solving the problem of delinquency. We have to have punishment, I agree, but there are other means of solving the problem, and, if we are not carrying out those other means, we ourselves are failing.
I remember, for example, as anyone coming from the crowded streets of a big city will also remember, the kind of games the boys could play on the streets, innumerable games, all sorts of games, such as "Levoy oot", Hop and Dig, Kick the Can. There was a host of games, and I notice that books have been written and songs have been sung, songs which one could not help singing, about these customs and games, and, if the customs prevailed, the games prevailed. But how can games of that sort be played with all the motor cars in the streets? Take Hop and Dig, for example. It was a challenge. The lads from one side of the street got into the middle hopping on one leg, and challenged the boys on the other side to come across, and, as they were knocked down by the "dig" they joined the challengers' team. That sort of game cannot be played where there are motor cars.
93 We have put up housing schemes where there are no facilities at all for the youngsters. In many cases, we do not even provide a fish and chip shop. Many youngsters want a fish and chip shop far more than they want a Scouts' hall. Many of them do not want to join the Scouts or the Boys' Brigade. They want an ice-cream shop with a juke box, a billiards saloon, and so on. There are many areas where there is nothing for the boys to do except get into trouble.
I am thinking of those who go to the juvenile courts. In certain strata of society, a youngster can have prestige if he has been to the court a lot of times. He is accorded a certain prestige in his circle, if his circle is a circle whose hand is against the police. It was the case, and I have no doubt it is still the case, that, if a youngster was called before the judge he was not brought to shame but would only have his ego elevated. We need to be thinking in these terms. From this point of view, bringing youngsters before the much less spectacular panel may have the effect of taking some of the heat out of this kind of thing; there may not be so much prestige in going there. Similarly with the probation officer, and I wonder whether the probation officer should be turned into a social worker. Certainly he must have a large part to play. We are concerned with developing good relations between young people and older people.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)rose——
§ Mr. W. Baxter
I am very interested in what my hon. Friend has had to say about his childhood days, and the games which were played, but was not the birch a certain deterrent? Did not the birch save boys from getting into trouble?
§ Mr. Lawson
No. The birch did not. A boy who had the birch could make a boast of it. There are boys of considerable quality, ability and courage. There is the other kind of fellow who becomes a criminal because he is inadequate, but 94 some boys are more adequate than the ordinary run of boys and they become criminals because they lead. Such a boy, when he got the birch, boasted about getting the birch: it was a mark of distinction which he could carry for many years.
This is a theme we can talk about more closely when we consider later how best to modify the Bill. I support my right hon. and hon. Friends in their endeavours to start this process of unifying the services. I plead only that they do not at this stage adopt a too rigid approach, and say that in this Bill they have got the last word and are not prepared to hear of any sensible or possible modification of it.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I would remind the House that there are many hon. Members who wish to speak in this debate.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Hamilton)
This is a most ambitious and important Bill. The general principle of the Bill is an admirable one. It seeks to ensure that help is given to many who are in need of help and offers to the troubled citizen the advantage of being able to "knock at one door". I would take issue with one hon. Member who said that the citizen was enabled to knock at one door and then directed where to go. I think the whole point and basic justification of the principle of the Bill is that someone who needs help will not have to be troubled to be directed to go somewhere else but that he will get in the door he knocks on and have his problem attended to.
It also offers the social worker an advantage in that it is sought to make effective use of the limited manpower which is available.
However, I hope that the Minister in winding up the debate will give an indication whether it is invisaged that specialisation will develop, because it is most important that specialisation should develop in many spheres of social service if it is to be efficient, and even though there is to be one umbrella I hope that, under it, we may have specialisation.
I hope there may be some clarification about what persons may "knock on the door." I know that the Bill as it stands is deliberately left general and presumably there will be opportunity during Committee for clarifying these points. 95 Are we thinking not only of young people but also of old people of handicapped people of the socially inadequate and unfortunate? I have a question to ask. The adult who comes under the umbrella of the Bill, is he obliged to come under it only if he wants to, or is he a volunteer? There are many people who might be a bit stubborn. Let us suppose a man is a little in need of help but can still just about manage. Can he, then, opt out and say, "I do not want to benefit from this umbrella"? I should like this point to be dealt with in the winding up speech.
Like many other hon. Members, I have received many representations, a number of them from the organisations for unmarried mothers, which are most anxious for a definite indication that they will come under the umbrella. There is no doubt that they are a category of person who need a lot of help. The right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) mentioned a figure of 41 per cent. of children in care in Glasgow being illegitimate—a very high number. I hope that we shall bear in mind the girl who has an illegitimate baby and who really wishes to retain her child, and whose only problem in making her choice is the short-term problem of help in the immediate, foreseeable future. Does that category of person come under the Bill?
The next question is: what doors can one knock on? I will give an example from my own experience and then apply it. I had a client who was pregnant and who pushed two children in a pram. She had been very badly beaten up by her husband for the umpteenth time. Often before she had come for advice and then been reconciled. Eventually, the worm turned and she never went back to him. However, she needed help. She needed a roof, like so many other women in her position. She was directed by me to the social welfare office. From there she was directed to two other places before finally being allotted a bed for the night for herself and her family.
But she still had a lot of doors to knock on and she still had to wait. If she were the type who wants to make her own way and to put her children into a nursery school, but she would probably have to wait until a place could be found 96 for them. She may possibly have a desire to go to a marriage guidance clinic. She may have the R.S.P.C.C. to consider, often useful in dealing with cases of violent husbands, as some of us who have had dealings with these cases know. She also has the temporary "roof" problem, because her husband is probably the tenant of the house.
Even though a court were to give her interim custody of the children, there is nothing she can do about getting the house. If we are envisaging one door being the answer, we might consider in that type of case not only giving immediate financial help to save a woman in this tragic situation having to wait for an hour and more in a Ministry of Social Security office—as often happens—but also power to award temporary tenancy of the matrimonial home.
I now ask about the health services, the Ministry of Social Security, the nursery schools, the voluntary services the green ladies, because in almost every case all these bodies would be involved. Are we getting any nearer to "knocking on one door"?
I welcome the provision contained in Clause 12(3), which was mentioned by the Secretary of State. From my experience as a solicitor with court practice, I can think of many cases where that provision would have helped enormously. This envisages cash assistance for an unforeseeable group of situations. I will give the example of a man never in trouble up to the age of 37 when his marriage broke up and when he did get into serious trouble. When he came out of prison he had lost the tools of his trade. He was a tradesman and he had no means by which he could avail himself of the tools of his trade.
One of my colleagues lent him the money, and I am glad to say that he got it back. That case had a happy ending, because that man, through one simple act, of being able to obtain the tools of his trade, got back to his trade, and redeem himself in society. Had he not got that help there and then—he had tried the Prisoners' Aid Society and a number of other bodies, but it was too big a sum—the story might have had a different ending. I am pleased with that provision in the Bill. One cannot envisage situations until they arise, but that provision 97 will enable that kind of problem to be dealt with.
I should like to follow the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) on his attitude to the large burghs. I am in the same position as the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Gregor Mackenzie), who has both a county authority and a burgh authority in his constituency. He made many points which seem to me to bear out what the hon. Member for Motherwell said. Social services are of a local and intimate character. Often the person requiring help prefers to get it within his own domestic setting through people who are known to him—for instance, his local councillor. That is a good thing and it would be a pity to interfere with it.
Housing, health and social services in the burghs are obviously better arranged on the same basis. Some burghs already provide very good social services—for instance, Hamilton. Size does not always bring about efficiency—sometimes it just brings bureaucracy, as perhaps all will agree. There is also the matter of the good relationship of the local councillor with the person needing help. If we remove these social services from the large burghs we shall leave them with small burgh status. Many county councils already lean on the existence of the good services in the large burghs. Therefore, I shall support the Amendment which will be tabled to retain these services in the large burgh. In present circumstances, as has been said, there may even have to be more reorganisation in future so I favour the least present rearrangement.
Like other hon. Members, I have some misgivings. I am not a social worker, but we are all social workers at some time in our lives, whether as town councillors, M.P.s or, in my case, as a solicitor. Often people have come to me with a social problem, not a legal problem, but I could not turn them away for that reason. I had to listen, because that was part of my job.
From my 10 years of practice in the courts I have two specific misgivings. One relates to juvenile courts and the other to the probation service. The present juvenile courts system in Scotland, in my view, works well. Crime is certainly rising but the dangerous age for boys appears to be between 17 and 98 21—for women it is 35 to 45. I do not know the reason for that. According to the Kilbrandon Committee—and that is now out of date—the age group up to 17 was not one in which there was a rapid increase. Far from it. The Kilbrandon Committee said that the figures suggested the increase was related to the increase in the child population. It may be that there has been a dramatic increase since then in this age group, but I do not think so. Whatever system we have the age group up to 17 seems to be holding its own. I ask right hon. and hon. Members to bear that point in mind.
Despite the fact that the present legislation was envisaged for a special kind of juvenile court, it has never been put into effect, save in four places. We only have four entirely separate juvenile courts as envisaged under the Children and Young Persons Acts, 1932 and 1937. We have good legislation, but we have not yet put it into effect. This often happens in penology and criminology. It seems that we will be having another jump before we have tried what we already have. We have a system where hearings are held in private. The Press is permitted to attend, but it may not publish the names and addresses of young offenders.
There is an advantage in this situation. The public interest is preserved by the Press being present. For example, the public, on hearing about a school being burned down and causing vast expense to the ratepayers, is entitled to know that the culprit has been caught and the case closed. It is not entitled to know the name and address of the child, and this is honoured by the Press. This is worth retaining. From what I have read about the panels, we are not told how the public interest will be preserved.
The juvenile courts at the moment have a fundamental consideration—the social well-being of the child. That is their duty. In my experience, one does not always agree with the sheriff, especially if one is a defence lawyer. However, I have rarely felt seriously aggrieved in a juvenile court. The only time I can remember was an occasion when the sheriff was new to the bench. The sheriff is a man accustomed to the problems of his own jurisdiction. Whatever city or sheriffdom he sits in he gets to know the problems of the child in a single end or the 99 child with an alcoholic father or a bad home life.
Our standard of justice concerns itself primarily with retrieving the child, and I should not like to think that it is proposed to abandon even part of it without giving it a trial. Only 16 per cent. of juveniles are dealt with in the reformed juvenile courts. Glasgow tries hard to deal with the problem. It has separated its juvenile courts from adult courts. The judge does not wear his robes, and the policemen do not wear their uniforms, but there are many other things that could be done. I should like a kind of roundtable conference at which the problems are discussed and present at the discussions there should be a social worker, a probation officer, and perhaps a cleric if the youngster concerned comes from a churchgoing family. We have a good system which could be improved, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his proposal to abandon it. The present system has the well being of the child as its major consideration.
It will not, in any event, be possible to abandon the system completely, because if a child pleads not guilty—which I understand happens in 5 per cent. to 10 per cent. of the cases—or if he or his parents dispute the facts, the case will have to go before a court in any event. We will not save any money under the new system, not that I am concerned primarily with that aspect of it. We will not avoid the necessity of maintaining the structure of the courts as they exist now.
In our courts legal aid is available to all those who are in custody, and always has been since 1424. That is a proud record of the legal profession in Scotland. The Bill does not say that legal aid will be available for appearance before the panels. The one thing that can be said with certainty about a lawyer who appears for a youngster is that he is on that youngster's side. This is a constant.
The judicial function is extremely important. Lord Devlin said:In an ordered society every question that affects the liberty of the individual, whether it is for a decade, a year, or a day, is a question for a judicial body.I admit to being a little afraid of laymen who are given the power of disposal. Laymen are the best people for social 100 work, but the most refined activity in social work is the power to dispose of a person's liberty or future, and for this I want a professional person. In Scotland lawyers are prejudiced against laymen with this power and not without reason. We have, therefore, been anxious to evolve a fair system of trial, and such a system cannot be brought in overnight. It takes a long time for fair rules to be evolved and we have a fair set of rules in Scotland. Our trials are as close to a scientific process as human justice can be. I am alarmed because I think that a child's interests may not be safeguarded because of the secrecy of the hearings under the new system.
As a counsellor who is often asked to advise a youth on whether his plea amounts to an admission of guilt, I am amazed at the number of occasions on which extraneous motives are brought into play. His mother may well have told him that nothing will happen if he pleads guilty and gets it over. If he has a new job, he is often encouraged to believe that the best thing he can do is to plead guilty and get back to work. Will the new system safeguard people who find themselves in that position?
I am concerned about the recruitment of the necessary staff for the lay panels. I understand that those concerned will have to be available for three months at a time. I am afraid of what I call do-gooders having power over the future of young people. I admire do-gooders when they are trying to raise money for a good cause or carrying out social work, but I do not think they will be suitable for disposing of liberty. People who are appointed to do this work will need to have first-hand knowledge of the problems of these children, and I am alarmed at the possibility of people without the necessary qualifications being given power to make decisions about the liberty and future of a youngster.
Will the appointments be made from among retired teachers, or ministers, or ministers' wives? Is it possible that a moral atheist would ever be given a chance to be appointed to do this work? Not many people will be available for three months at a time. As to the reporter I think it is right that the reporter is dismissible only by the Secretary of State. This is excellent, because it shows the status that he is being given, 101 but he may dominate the lay panel. It will require a courageous layman to stand up to someone who knows all about the legal procedure and who is a permanent official. The liberty of a child is as important to me as the liberty of an adult, and the rules affecting a child must be as fair as those affecting adults.
The probation service has sent representations to us all. I have a good deal of experience of reading probation reports. In about one case in ten they criticise one aspect or other of a local authority's functions, and it is a good thing that they should be free to do so. If they become employees of a local authority, I do not think that it will be as easy for them to criticise their employers. A probation officer has certain sanctions. He is an agent of the public interest and of the court. He can bring the probationer back for breach of probation. A court's main function is to treat the young person as a person to be retrieved. In my experience the probationer officer's independence assists him to do so.
§ Mr. Alex Eadie (Midlothian)
What about valuation assessors who are appointed by local authorities? They are free agents.
§ Mrs. Ewing
I have never had any quarrel with the impartiality of valuation assessors. If probation officers are placed in the position of having to criticise their co-employees, the situation might be somewhat different. Very often a probation officer's report includes a personal criticism of a co-employee. This distinguishes his situation from that of a valuation assessor.
A case has been made for bringing the probation service for young people up to the age of 16 under the umbrella of the Bills' provisions, and for leaving out the adult probation service. This is probably a compromise, but I cannot see much logic in it, because the great value of the probation service lies in retrieving persons. A probation officer knows what lies ahead of a young person who starts to go wrong and gets on to the slippery path of crime. From his experience of the old lags with whom he has had to deal he can convince a youngster that he is on the criminal road to disaster, and from his first-hand experience of 102 adult criminals may be able to stop him from going any further.
The ingenuity of probation orders is not always understood. They seem to work well because they are voluntary contracts.
I wonder whether under this Bill probation will be a voluntary contract? Is probation still envisaged as one form of disposal of a panel? When a youth is asked to accept probation, that request treats him with a degree of responsibility to which he will respond if there is any good in him. The parent who is asked to agree to co-operate with the probation officer is not quite such an undignified figure as when he entered the court behind his child. He is given a status and may live up to it—though he does not always manage to do so. Therefore, the voluntary aspect is very important.
The present arrangements of juvenile courts served by probation orders, as they so frequently are, are moreover of infinite variety. We will not get a wider disposal through the panels. Fines on parents or young persons are clearly a deterrent for first offenders, as is shown by the statistics. A variety of conditions can be imposed by a probation order. Damages for a broken window or worse can be recovered. A boy can be required to stop carrying weapons or an adult to call on a police officer every Saturday afternoon instead of going to the Rangers-Celtic football match.
I was even concerned with a very sad case of a stabbing, when, because of many mitigating circumstances, the boy was, unusually, put on probation. One of the many conditions was that he should apologise to his victim before the whole school, if his headmaster co-operated. That was very unusual, and I believe that it was done. I mention that to show that the present arrangements offer an infinite variety, so I would not necessarily accept that the new arrangements would offer more variety.
I turn now to the morality of responsibility. The age of criminal responsibility at 8 is obviously out of step and must be raised, but I do not know whether it should go up to 16. After all, in Scotland, we can marry at 16, although that may be just an argument for raising the age at which one may marry. It 103 would be strange to have no criminal responsibility after puberty. The court has always recognised the value of this line. A boy of 15 or even 14 knows that he is answerable for his actions. That is not to say that he should not be retrieved if he has fallen, but it does not bring out the best to put on a "blanket" up to the age of 16.
I admire the courage of this step, but I have these serious reservations which I should like considered.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I must remind the House that many hon. Members wish to speak and that we have had only two speeches in the last hour.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Alex Eadie (Midlothian)
The hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) was drawing on her experience as a solicitor and housewife in giving approval to the principle of the Bill. From the other side of the fence, not as a solicitor but as someone with 50 years' experience as a lay magistrate and a member of a juvenile panel, I would like to point out some of the remarkable misconceptions about juvenile courts. This talk about "guilty" and "not guilty" is confusing, since a child in a juvenile court is asked only, "Did you do it or did you not?" Therefore, we cannot discuss the Bill purely in terms of legality.
One argument which is used against the Bill is that the existing system is satisfactory, but the figures do not bear this out—although the hon. Lady was quite right to have some reservations here. I would not describe most of the offences—again, I do not like the word "crime", which has been somewhat misused—as trivial, but not all are serious. I was convinced that many a boy or girl who appeared before me would never be in a court again, and this probably proved to be correct.
As a lay magistrate, I found probation officers very helpful, but the arguments, especially from the Front Bench, were not so much about their retention as about their status. I have had the best relationships with probation officers before a decision—once again, not a "sentence"—since they could be of invaluable assistance in describing the children's parental 104 background, I.Q. and school record. But it is possible that the word "probation" is not a nice one and may have unpleasant associations. For instance, we used to associate the school board and the attendance officer with someone forcing children to go to school, and I should like them called, for example, social workers. I have argued for social workers in big post-primary schools and the functions of the probation officer could perhaps be carried out in this way without a change.
I am not too happy about the method of appointment of juvenile panels. This is why I favour the change. When I was a lay magistrate, the only way that I could attend was to work all night at the coal face and go to the court at ten o'clock in the morning. In the early days, the work was over by lunchtime, but then the court began to sit for longer and longer, even until 6 p.m. I did not even get my bus fare or the price of my lunch.
Therefore, I am pleased that the Bill will provide that local authorities may—though I would like some explanation of the word "may"—recompense people on the panel. I want it to represent all walks of life, since it could probably benefit from the experience of miners, railwaymen or engineers. I do not want them to have my experience or that of some of my colleagues on the day shift who could perhaps not go on the panel at all.
I am glad that there have been some amendments à la Kilbrandon, because he suggested that the sheriff should make the appointments. That was a monstrous suggestion. The sheriff principal makes the appointments to the valuation appeal courts and I do not know why he should. It was suggested that the sheriff should do this over the juvenile panel, but I think that the Secretary of State should accept the responsibility and that a panel and a chairman should decide. I am glad that some decision has been taken about setting up a separate department. The idea first mooted was that the directors of education should have this included in their departments, but they have enough to do.
I am pleased with the provision for the elderly. The care of the elderly cannot be solved just with more old folks' homes. That is why I welcome the involvement of the local authority. I have 105 lived for many years in a village. I know that it does not apply so much to cities and towns, but I have always been struck by the fact that, in these small communities, provision can be made for the old people, probably in their own houses, on a mutual help basis. Mrs. Brown, who is an old lady, may not be feeling too well, but young Mrs. Smith next door will help keep an eye open to see whether the milk and papers are taken in. This kind of thing means that old people can stay in the villages in which they were born and play an active part. This association of the local authorities can ensure housing provision for old people within the community.
My correspondence has also been voluminous. Much of a Member's correspondence is pressure on behalf of a particular profession and I was some-times not impressed by the arguments. But I was impressed by one letter which I felt had a point and I hope that my hon. Friend will answer it. A constituent, a head occupational therapist, wrote to me saying:The Bill contains a Clause which is of particular importance to the severely handicapped. Under Clause 1(4)(c) the function of local health authorities, under Section 27 of the National Health Service (Scotland) Act, 1947, for the care and aftercare of persons who are, or who have been, suffering from illness, other than functions relating to medical, dental or nursing care, are transferred to the new Local Authority Social Work CommitteeThe writer adds:I say that this whole question is of great importance to our profession of occupational therapists as under the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act, 1960, occupational therapists are only allowed to practice under medical direction. Indeed, when the White Paper on Social Work was considered, my profession were assured by the Scottish Home and Welfare Departments that this aspect would be safeguarded.I hope that the Minister will comment on that and will tell us whether the terms of the Bill safeguard the position.
§ 7.27 p.m.
Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)
It is always a pleasure to speak following the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie), particularly on an occasion such as this, when the party political hatchet is temporarily buried. However, there are a few points I must take up with the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends.
106 The hon. Gentleman gave some interesting information about his past experience as a magistrate and I agree wholeheartedly with his views about the composition of the panels. It is important that they should be representative of the areas from which the children are likely to come. I am not sure, however, that there is much wisdom in having on the panel a minor if he is unfortunately having to work night shift the night before appearing on the panel. Will he be fresh and able to deal with these problems?
Earl of Dalkeith
I accept that, but I did not gather that the hon. Gentleman was making that point. If he was, I apologise for misrepresenting him.
The hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) said that the Bill followed a great many bits and pieces of social welfare practices that had evolved, by chance, over the years. Although I would not regard the Bill as a revolution, it could be described as accelerating evolution. It is for this reason that I welcome it. Obviously, this is a Measure which appeals to all hon. Members who found ourselves in politics largely on account of our hope that we might do something constructive and useful to help to improve the quality of life for the population generally. This is another reason why I welcome the Bill, but with some reservation.
In so far as the Measure aims to set up sensible machinery to protect and assist the most vulnerable and defenceless members of the community, it is like its grand-parent, the Kilbrandon Report. Like its parent, it can provide a valuable service to Scotland. The implementation of the Bill will have to be reconciled with that rare and increasingly precious commodity, the rights and freedoms of the community. It is appropriate, therefore, that our acceptance of the Bill should be qualified. In our attempts to harmonise and coordinate all the activities that are going on, we should be careful not to do anything which might undermine the voluntary spirit, which is such an important ingredient in our whole approach to social welfare problems.
107 Several hon. Members have referred to the volume of correspondence which we have received. I frankly admit that on no other Scottish Bill have I received such a volume of papers, memoranda, and literature of all sorts. This is a healthy sign which shows that a great many people are taking an interest in the subject. It also emphasises the need for co-ordination, because it shows how many different organisations are involved, many of which are bound to be overlapping in some of the work they do.
The debate in another place was an impressive example of the high standard of discussion that can take place there. At a time when the other House tends to be knocked by hon. Members here, the quality of the debate on Second Reading is worth stressing, for a wealth of knowledge and experience can be brought to bear by their Lordships which I sometimes wish could be brought to bear in some of our debates. They make a valuable contribution——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The noble Lord must not push that too far or we may change the subject of today's debate.
Earl of Dalkeith
I referred to the other place merely to point out that we now have a slightly improved Bill compared with what it was originally.
The subject of the timing of the Bill has featured widely today and several hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) have expressed anxiety at its timing in relation to the forthcoming report by the Royal Commission on Local Government. I appreciate the difficult position in which the Government found themselves in wondering whether or not to hold back, but I favour them going ahead. Although it would be wrong to prejudge what the Royal Commission will recommend, I suggest that, with a little intelligent anticipation, it might be possible to create a framework with this legislation which will require the minimum of change.
It is important, in this context, to consider the position of large burghs. If they are included, we will have about 56 administrative authorities instead of 32. I would guess that the Royal Commission will advise us to have larger units throughout the country, in which case even 32 administrative units may be too 108 many. I fear that if we set up 56, many of the people in those units will be disappointed and that morale will suffer when they have to be disbanded and merged into larger units.
The potential of the Bill for good is enormous. It can do much to contribute to a healthier society—mentally, physically and morally—and it can do a great deal to improve the quality of life by setting future generations on the right road. An essential feature is the question of delinquency and the crime rate. From the discussion which has taken place since the Kilbrandon Report was first published, we have become acutely aware of the clearly identifiable reasons why so many youngsters take the wrong road. Environment is one. Slum clearance has been proceeding apace in the last 12 years or so, with the result that one of the causes why youngsters go off the rails is being cleared up rapidly. There are also the broken and unhappy homes, and these often originate from slum conditions.
We then have the question of illegitimacy. This is an important aspect which the Bill could help to tackle and, in Committee, we will have to ensure that the Measure is equipped to solve some of the problems that are arising from this cause. It is difficult not to relate this to other activities which have been taking place, including those which enable local authorities to assist with birth control. The advent of the contraceptive pill can make an important contribution and I am certain that those who we sometimes refer to as unwanted children are the children who get into trouble, often because they are unloved.
Parental responsibility in this is of fundamental importance. I am disappointed to find myself in disagreement to a minor extent with the Kilbrandon Report in connection with parental responsibility because I believe that there is a case for parents being fined for the misdemeanours of their children. I have carefully studied the arguments advanced by the Kilbrandon Report, but I suggest that the fining of parents would compel a great many of them to pay more attention to their children whereas, without this step being taken, they will continue just not to care.
Many hon. Members wish to speak and I will, therefore, not delay the House. 109 How do we convert the vision of the Bill into reality? The Measure provides the bones. We must provide the meat to cover them and transplant a heart into a skeleton and ensure that it beats with compassion. The crucial key is the question of staffing. There is a desperate shortage of manpower in the welfare services and it is essential that we show clearly that in future this profession is a prestige one.
By this means we will attract individuals to a job with proper career prospects and not simply something comprising a series of little ladders leading nowhere far. We must show that worthwhile ladders exist and that people can climb them to a worthwhile summit. Training and qualifications are vitally important, as is the reward. We need more clarification about the qualifications of the directors, and I hope that the Minister will provide this information.
The co-ordination of the present multitude of services is sensible and to be welcomed. However, I wonder if the Measure goes far enough in connection with local government departments, health services, education services and the rest. I have a great many points still to raise, but they can be left to the Committee stage. Even if the Government have not assessed the cost of implementing the Bill I am sure that this will be one of the most invaluable investments that we can make in helping our society and in helping Scotland to produce a race of people of whom it can be even more proud than it has been in the past.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith). The last time I followed him in a debate I was forcibly putting forward the view of the Government and he had been putting forward the opposite view. I agree with his last sentence, that this is a good Bill which concerns each and every one of us and one which we hope, when it becomes an Act, will be beneficial to the people of our country.
The hon. Member also made a point worthy of note in relation to acceding to the request made to the Secretary of State by the large burghs. Every organisation without exception has made 110 representations to us. My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) referred frequently to me. I am sorry that he is not present now. He, of course, remembered that we had a very hot discussion in Committee upstairs and at that time I made clear where I stood on the matter. I take a very strong line on it.
The county clerk of Lanark was selected by the then Secretary of State for Scotland to sit on the Kilbrandon Committee. When the Report was presented to us in 1964 my colleagues and I, because of our interest and because our county clerk played a very important part in this matter, had many discussions about it. When the Government came to power we found that a Royal Commission was to be set up to inquire into the ramifications of local government and we supported regionalisation. We also welcomed regionalisation of police forces.
Those of us who studied the Kilbrandon Report, which is the grandparent of this Bill, recognised that there would be regionalisation of social services. When the Bill went to another place the noble Lords had the good sense to accept that we should work on a regional basis. If the amendment suggested by the Secretary of State is accepted—and we must assume that it will be—instead of 24 areas operating the services, there will be 56. How are we to get reporters to carry out this very important work? In some cases there will be insufficient work for them. I should like my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to tell us how it is intended to deal with this problem.
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell has now returned. He put a point to me about a problem family. It has been put forward, not only by my hon. Friend, but by many other hon. Friends. I have made certain inquiries about how we can deal with the problem family if the Bill is passed. From all the information I have been able to gather Lanarkshire education authority has devised a scheme whereby school teachers will be housed in various areas. This has been done with the acquiescence of all the large burghs in the county. I am sure that the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell will be dealt with in a similar fashion.
111 I am sorry that the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) is not now present. In Lanarkshire there are six large burghs. Not long ago, because of its parochial attitude, Hamilton wanted to be "upside with the Jones's" and insisted on having its own police force. That was parochialism run riot. Now Hamilton wants to retain these services. Some of my colleagues represent a large burgh and part of a county. I am fortunate in having the whole of my constituency in the county.
In all the representations which have been made I have heard none from the County of Lanark. Last Friday, I was talking to one of the 13 councillors in my constituency. He remarked that as the other place had arrived at a very reasonable conclusion over this Bill he thought this House would have the good sense to accept their leadership and we would then have integration of the services.
Bearing in mind that the report of the Royal Commission will not be ready until late this year, and that it will not be put into operation until the middle of 1970, if that is a valid reason for allowing the Bill to go forward I am prepared to accept it with the exception I have mentioned. This is a good Bill which deserves the support of every hon. Member. There has been much talk about the compilation of lists of names of persons for the panels.
My hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) made a very strong point about this. We have to be careful not to overload the panels with "do-gooders". Recently, when I was with some members of the education committee I discovered, and I was not surprised to discover it, that truancy from school had increased enormously. Parents whose children are truants are brought up before sub-sub-education committees, which have power to send them to the sheriff, who can take action with the parents. This point is worthy of my hon. Friend's attention—if not in the proceedings on the Bill, at any rate in the foreseeable future.
Dates are prescribed for school leaving. Because the birthdays of some children occur, say, the day after the prescribed leaving date, they must remain at school, even though not happy there. They add considerably to the truancy problem. 112 Serious consideration must be given to this issue, because we want to save these truants from becoming delinquents.
The home help scheme does a valuable job at present. The home helps are dedicated people. Obviously, they are not in it for the remuneration. The hours suit them, because their children are at school. But sometimes home helps are required in the evenings. Provision should be incorporated in the Bill for staggering the hours.
I ask my hon. Friend to give serious consideration to what has been said about unmarried mothers. As the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) said, 41 per cent. of children in the care of the local authority children's officer in Glasgow are illegitimate. This is a problem which should be put in the forefront of any social work which is to be done.
Representations have been made by the Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church which, I believe, have had the acquiescence of the Church of Scotland to become members of the services. I know that it will be permissible when the Bill is enacted for this to be arranged at local level, but I ask that there should be church representation on the same basis as there is on education committees. Clergymen, like the local doctor, are very much in the homes of all the people in their parishes. They know all of them. They do a useful job. I hope that this matter, too, can be dealt with in Committee. With these remarks I give the Bill my support and hope that cognisance will be taken of some of my constructive criticisms
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, South)
I have three main points only, the first of which concerns reorganisation. Reference has been made to the Royal Commission, which may report in the autumn. We do not know what changes will be recommended, but it would appear that the number of local authority units will be drastically reduced. Are we wise to go ahead with this vital piece of social legislation based upon existing local authority units? Would it not be better to wait? If we go ahead, will it be easy to adjust what we do now to accord with the new local authority set-up which may come in future? It is pointless Parliament wasting its time and 113 energy in passing legislation now if it has to be drastically altered in a few years. I am not disposed to waste my time in such a way. I shall be glad to hear that there is no danger of the work we are all to do being thrown away.
There has been considerable discussion about what should be regarded as a local authority for the purpose of the Bill. I agree with the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton); I have no hesitation in backing large units, for obvious reasons. We must make the best use we can of existing resources, which are not strong in all areas. There is the question of accommodation. There is the difficulty of recruiting 50 or more directors. With the larger units, we shall probably need about 24. With the smaller units, we shall need 50 or more. The same is true of reporters. I doubt whether smaller authorities and units will be able to carry out all the work with which they will be charged. I hope that the Scottish Office will follow the dictates of common sense and opt for larger units.
Secondly, the probation service. I am not clear from reading the Bill what is proposed, but it seems that these people will be in the general service and will not be able to specialise very much. There is much to be said for keeping the service separate and as it is. It has done excellent work in Scotland. Salaries are approximately the same as those existing in England. Their case loads compare favourably with those in England and Wales. The courts have confidence in the men running the service. At present they are free from local pressures, political or financial. Why interfere with a service which is functioning so well? If there is to be a change, I hope that the service will not be integrated too much and that people will be able to specialise. Above all, it is necessary that the members of the probation service or whatever takes its place should have the full confidence of the courts.
I come, thirdly, to Part III, and, in particular, Clauses 30 to 33. I am not happy about any of this. There is a woolliness about the processes proposed. We are not told exactly how the reporters are to be chosen or what their qualifications are to be. The proposed children's panel fills me with alarm and apprehension. It seems to me that we may be 114 letting loose a lot of amateurs in what should be a judicial process. There is a great air of informality about it, with little mention of representation of the child, cautioning or other safeguards.
It seems to me that, throughout, the child is to be encouraged to plead guilty or admit his alleged guilt. There is an absence of legal training or of the judicial approach. A case will go to the sheriff for investigation only if the child denies the offence. Such denial might well take quite a lot of character and strength of will on the part of the child. I ask hon. Members now—not waiting until Committee—to look at Clause 32(2)(g). Here is a clear example of the prejudging of an issue.
In these days of crime and disorder, I am not in favour of weakening the judicial process or the procedures of the law. Rather, I believe in exercising the full panoply of the law and its majesty. I have more faith in the judgment, commonsense, experience and, often, the kindness of those on the bench than I have in other people who may be very well-meaning but are really inexperienced amateurs, who may be motivated by theory or unfounded concepts.
Subject to my criticism of that Part of it, however, I welcome the Bill, and I shall certainly support it.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow, Provan)
It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison), whose brevity is commendable. I do not know whether I can match him in that, but I shall take up one or two of the points which he raised. Certainly, his last remarks were fairly controversial.
It is interesting that we have not heard any criticism about interference from outside bodies. In other words, this is a Scottish approach to a problem which is not confined to Scotland but is almost an international problem. Nearly all hon. Members have spoken of the interest and pressures occasioned by the Bill. I have had almost as much correspondence about it as I had on the Gaming Bill. The two Measures have this in common, that there is no consumer's voice represented anywhere. No one admits to being a consumer or expects to be a consumer. There is, 115 therefore, I suppose, a greater responsibility on us as Members of Parliament to acquaint ourselves with all the arguments and problems. We have, I suggest, been too involved so far in the structure of the administrative units rather than in what has given rise to the need for the Bill, namely, the underlying problem itself.
I am always delighted to be able to agree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, because I feel that he needs a bit of sympathy sometimes, especially when he is so often either misquoted or misunderstood by so-called responsible bodies. I think of the teachers' organisations who took him to task the other week when he made a speech on crime and said that one of the disturbing factors behind the increase in crime was a failure of social education. With their usual lack of objectivity, certain teachers' organisations immediately assumed that that was an attack on the teaching profession. It was nothing of the kind. When we speak of social education in the context of the Kilbrandon Report, we are speaking not just of the narrow concept of what goes on in school but of all the wider matters which must be taken into account.
We must address ourselves to this lack of social education in both the young and the old, though it is particularly young people who concern me. How is it possible to be a rebel and to conform? This is the challenge confronting youth today. I think that most social workers will agree that a good part of our present problem arises because young people will not conform. But do we always want them to conform? Would not life be a miserable and drab thing if there were no room for the rebel, for the person who wanted to protest, or even for the person who just wanted to exercise some individuality? Out of the desire, or the need, to find a way of expressing themselves, young people can easily find themselves in trouble.
At what point do we discover people of this kind? Are we doing it at an early enough stage? The appointment in Glasgow schools at least of housemasters is an indication that education in itself is not enough. Perhaps, now that we can feed children properly, we should be more anxious to concentrate our efforts 116 and energies on seeing that the child who is disturbed emotionally can be identified. If picked up at an early age, such children may well be saved from much of the delinquency which later turns into serious crime. Professional help and advice available to such children and their parents at an early stage can be of great value.
There is a clash of philosophy or of theoretical approach in this matter. One or two hon. Members have mentioned this. We need to have discipline. We need to be firm. But I am never sure what people mean by that. If it means hammering children, physically beating them, I do not accept that school of thought at all. I believe that the heavy-handed father or parent is a bigger menace in many ways, in our present state of society, than the tolerant one—not the person who could not care less but the one who at least makes an attempt to understand how young people feel and look at things today. If we do not grasp the conflict which is going on in society, we shall be in danger of making many mistakes.
The issue will inevitably be blurred to some extent. We keep talking—I am doing it now—about problem families, about children with problems and about people with problems, mixing this up with crime. The Bill does it, too, but they are not necessarily the same thing. There are two separate aspects to this issue.
In some ways, there is something in common between the treatment of someone who has a problem and someone who has been in trouble to the extent of breaking the law. What do I mean by that? Let us consider the argument about the separation of probation work. A probation officer may be called upon to deal with an alcoholic who has committed a breach of the peace or something more serious. He may have in his charge some exuberant and high-spirited youth who has stolen a motor car or smashed the family motor car and killed someone. He may be in charge of a person convicted of a homosexual offence, of a prostitute, or of some inadequate who has committed incest, or he may have the charge of someone who has attempted suicide.
These are what I would call the exceptional crimes. Those categories do not 117 include the hardened criminal who commits theft or murder in cold blood. They are the more exotic kind of things with which a probation officer could be asked to deal. Does anyone suggest that just because he is an officer of the court any one probation officer has all the skills and talents that equip him to deal with all the personal problems associated with the type of person who commits such offences? It is wrong to take that kind of line.
We must look at the philosophy of the social workers, who say that they are trying to develop the strength of individuals, irrespective of how and why they come to them. They try to look at a person as an individual and develop the strengths and good qualities that exist in everybody in varying degrees of quality and quantity. We must be quite firm about this. I am satisfied that anybody who has examined any social problem related to difficult people after they have committed a crime will be in favour of such an examination.
We have heard too much recently of the kind of philosophy that says we must give greater powers to the police or that they must be more repressive, or that we must approach the problem of crime from the point of view of the person who is doing a difficult job. It is not appreciated often enough that the policeman, the prison officer or some of the court lawyers who speak in the House are so saturated in the sense of always dealing with bad people in society that they begin to have the idea that everybody is like that. That is one of the dangers of the argument that we must be firm and tough and beat people and have a deterrent, for otherwise society will not respond to the problem of improving the standard and quality of life.
One of the things I dodged in public life was doing police court work during my stint as a magistrate. My critics may well doubt my ability, but have never doubted my industry. I did not dodge it because of the question of time. I was unwilling to go every day to the court and listen to all the comic singers and other interesting characters who appeared there, I was also bored by the attitude of some of my colleagues who were always discussing the latest interesting cases they had heard in court and giving the impression that society was made up 118 only of criminals. Therefore, I dodged going to some extent, because I wanted to retain in the easy way a greater faith in the ability of the human race to survive and solve some of its problems.
We hear a great deal about parental responsibility. The easiest thing is to become a parent and the most difficult is to bring up a child. We can sometimes be a bit mealy-mouthed about these things. We keep getting on to parents as though they had all the answers to the problems we cannot solve. Therefore, we must be very tolerent and charitable in our approach to the problem and to the administrative set-up.
I have been very impressed by the quality and ability of the social workers who have been putting pressure on us about the Bill. I respect their sheer professionalism. Sometimes when we talk about voluntary workers and the voluntary organisation we are really talking about organisations which have paid staffs of professionals, but which get their money from other than public sources. It seems to me that we misuse the word "voluntary". What we want is the genuine voluntary person who will give up his time to the community without thought of reward or recompense. We have not enough of them, but I am sure that we shall get enough to do the job being asked of them on the panels.
I do not minimise the enormous challenge presented to us by the Bill. Unlike the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro), I do not believe that we must be certain that we have the right answer before we do this, for otherwise we should never do anything.
I have made no mention of the argument about the structure, but I hope that whatever happens we shall at least have created a climate and the administrative structure that will enable us to meet one of the most difficult challenges facing us today.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wolrige-Gordon (Aberdeenshire, East)
There is very much in the Bill with which I agree. Therefore, I hope that the strong protagonists which it has on both sides of the House will forgive me if I do not spend the short time available in eulogising its good parts. I hope that that will be 119 taken as read, and I turn, instead, immediately to that part which gives me most cause for concern. Clause 3.
The need for social work and the importance of social workers in Scotland is increasing, and the Bill is a recognition of that. In one sense it is sad, but it is certainly true, that of all those affected by the sometimes callous workings of our society, the children are among the most defenceless. Therefore, much of the Bill is naturally concentrated on them.
In 1961, when the Kilbrandon Committee was set up, there were over 21,000 charges of juvenile delinquency proven in Scotland. In 1966, there were over 23,000. It is easy to blame the children concerned. I am certainly not one to defend the wrong they did, but I do not believe that they alone are to blame. My right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) mentioned that 41 per cent. of the children now in care in Glasgow are illegitimate, and this point was taken up by other hon. Members.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
That figure has been mentioned on a number of occasions, and the implication is that those 41 per cent. are juvenile delinquents. They are not at all. They may need care because they are illegitimate children, but that has nothing to do with delinquency.
§ Mr. Wolrige-Gordon
I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman did not hear me correctly. I am certain that if he checks in HANSARD tomorrow he will find that I said that they were 41 per cent. of children in care. I certainly did not intend to give the impression, and I am sure that I did not, that they were delinquent. The Kilbrandon Report is quite definite on that point.
In paragraph 87, it says:…more often than not the problem of the child who is in need and the delinquent child can be traced to short-comings in the normal 'bringing-up' process—in the home, in the family environment and in the schools.The Report follows on logically enough with the proposition that the normal educational processes having failed, for whatever reason, special measures are needed to cope with the problem child. That is the origin of Clause 3, and it has much to commend 120 it. No one could pretend that the present process is curing delinquency. I accept that in present circumstances further measures are necessary.
But the more I consider the provisions in the Bill, the more concerned do I become, mainly because of the apparent removal of the legal aspect from each case. The law is no longer the wicket-keeper—it has been made the longstop—and in its place we have the new and as yet rather unspecified—for all the good intentions of Schedule 2—children's panels, children's hearings and the activities of the reporter.
Some people support this because they think that, if we remove the children from the jurisdiction of the courts of law, they escape the stigma or, as the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) would have it, the honour of court appearance. I am unimpressed by that argument. What attaches stigma to a court appearance is surely not the fact that one appears in court, but the fact that one has done something which has caused one to appear there and to be found guilty. I cannot believe but that, in time, this will not apply equally to those appearing before the panels. In the Bill, pains are taken to prove that the panel is only concerned with compulsory measures of care to include…protection, control, guidance and treatment.I am not a professional in this matter. I approach the Bill, as the great majority of my constituents will approach it—and they are also people without special knowledge—with the question, "Why is not punishment included in that list?" I believe that many of our people will be amazed when they see in the newspapers reports of some of the activities by this section of the community and realise that we are attempting to remedy them without any apparent mention of punishment. Why is this? I believe that it is because there is the intention to remove the legal aspect of each case from consideration of it as far as possible.
The panels are not even to decide on disputed questions of fact. That remains the province of the reporter, or in extreme cases the sheriff. If I were a delinquent, I would consider this apparent removal of the legal aspect as an inelegant charade. I would not cease to regard these panels as the arm of the law. I would know 121 that, if I appealed to the sheriff on a question of proof, and he found against me, I would be returned to the panel for what it might call "treatment" but which, if I were a delinquent, I would call "punishment". I might even know that, under Clause 34 (4) (c), the Secretary of State might enable me to appeal to the sheriff against the decision of the hearing so that, in the last resort, the arbiter even of my treatment is presumably to be the sheriff.
The same correlation applies to the reporter. For instance, under Clause 40, I will know perfectly well that the reporter has the sanction of the law to back him up, so that I have not really, as a delinquent, got away from the law. The process has merely been a little concealed. That kind of deception of people who already may have reason to be suspicious of society is a great mistake. Even so, some idealistic people support it because they feel it enables the social rehabilitation concept appropriate to each case to be considered without…the crime-responsibility-punishment concept…which affects the operation of criminal courts.
I think that one can get too far away from the crime-responsibility-punishment concept. Using less emotive words, it is a natural order of parenthood. "You did not eat your first course so you do not get the sweet you normally have afterwards." This is a normal and necessary practice, understood by all concerned and, most important, accepted to be fair. I believe that one of the worst services we can do any wrongdoer, what-ever the explanation of or reason for his conduct may be, is to pretend that what he has done is not in some sense wrong.
There is one other very important issue which has been brought out, particularly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll. The law in Britain is made to protect the guilty or the accused every bit as much and perhaps more than the innocent. In this new procedure, the man responsible for establishing the case for the panel in the first instance is to be the reporter. His importance is specifically recognised by Clause 36 (4) and the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) spoke of the safeguarding of his position by the Secretary 122 of State and the recognition, therefore, of his importance and status.
We shall need very good reporters because it is inevitable, in any piece of administration, that the calibre of those entrusted with carrying it out should be of the highest. But, in this case, those who will be affected are anyhow by definition the least able in the community and the most dependent upon others therefore to protect their interests.
When the reporter decides that a child needs the attention of his panel, even then the child still does not have the protection of legal advice unless and until he actually denies the reporter's allegations, by which time he may well have said stupid or incriminating things. Moreover, it is only the Secretary of State, under Clause 35(5), who may decide that the child or the parents have the right to be represented at the children's hearing, even though quite difficult matters may be in question.
For example, under Clause 42(3), part of the grounds of the case may be accepted and the hearing therefore proceeds on that part. The right to be represented should surely be automatic, as the hon. Member for Hamilton argued, and I do not think that her case was answered. The removal of the law to a long stop position is far from being an unmixed blessing in the interests of those we are most concerned to help. Why do it at all? It may be that some who want to remove the wicket keeper to long stop are really more concerned with removing him from the field altogether, but I am sure that that is not the Government's intention.
Why not admit openly that this is a new legal process to deal with a particular problem in need of special attention and that the main function of the panels is certainly to advise, protect, control and guide but that, under the training scheme, their members are to be fully conversant with the law and that, in any negotiations with a panel, its representatives and servants in the reporter's department, the person concerned will have the full and immediate right to legal advice and protection?
This could avoid the dangers which I have tried to set forth and which I fear as result of reading this Bill. It could do much to right the present position. I recognise that there are difficult cases 123 which do not get the attention in care and depth that they could from people to whom this has become a matter of detailed knowledge and experience. We have a great chance here for society to make a significant contribution to help people whom it has so far so often judged too harshly and treated with insufficient care and understanding. Obviously, the calibre of personnel who make up the panels and the reports will be all-important. That cannot be over-emphasised. If we also have the protection of the law from the start the good that they can do will be greatly increased.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. William Small (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Wolrige-Gordon) indicated his antagonism to the concept behind the Bill. That is a natural consequence of his over-emphasis on one part of it. The Bill is a major reform, dealing with two classes of people. There is an emphasis on delinquency and welfare. The latter has been neglected in terms of local authorities. This is a combined effort and on a far broader basis that I had originally thought.
I am a little perturbed about the position of probation officers. When local authority members have the opportunity of selecting committees to sit on they always plump for education, followed by housing and then roads or some other subject in which they are interested. At the lower end of the scale comes social welfare and the children's committee. These are Cinderellas.
If I have one major criticism, it is about the probation officers. Records will show that 35 years ago one Baillie Cole, who sat as a justice in Motherwell, was one of the promoters of acceptance of the probation service within the community. No longer was an individual derided by the public because he volunteered for such public service. No one who is responsible for community relationships would take away the authority of the probation service, or alter the way in which it carries out its work. I am concerned lest there should be fragmentation of a national service, built up with a national code and thinking nationally. It could be broken down into individual servants of a social work committee.
124 The right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) said that the service had become the creature of the courts, and was answerable to them. That is not necessarily so. By advertisements, a local authority probation committee accepts the need for a service within the area. Advertising builds up the service. All the reports of that service are the responsibility of the local authority and are scrutinised by it. The service is answerable exclusively to the authority for its conduct.
We are to change over from juvenile courts to children's hearings. In my experience juvenile courts were never courts in the hardest sense of the word. I have never found them to be terrifying to anybody. Children who appeared before the court were treated fairly. There was never a reign of terror.
The hearings will consist of three people, one of whom must be a woman. At present, if a child is recommended as being in need of care and protection, or if he has committed an offence, he is referred to a justice of the peace, or to the probation officer. The reporter must call a children's hearing on a lawful day, and the child can be detained until the date of the hearing. A justice of the peace can usually call a juvenile court right away, and give good reasons why. This position needs examination.
The Secretary of State is to make certain appointments. This suggests almost a position of patronage. How does one choose, unless there is a volunteer? If there is a volunteer, how does he make his qualifications known? I have always argued that anybody who administers within the county must go through the ballot box. In the administration of justice, I would have thought the nomination ought to come, via the local authority, from those who were already accepted in the community.
The hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) considered that there was too much reliance upon volunteers and laymen, and that there should be more professionals. This is a rather private lawyer-client relationship. It is more likely that changes of a progressive nature in a community will be brought about by laymen than by specialists. Specialists tend to become too rigid in their approach.
125 The reporter will be the most influential person in the community in terms of the reconstruction of local government under the Bill. He will be judge and jury in almost every case. He will be senior in terms of continuity of service. He will have all the written evidence. He will be the Pooh-Bah. He will be the adviser on almost everything.
On the question of nomination of officials by the local authority to the social work committee, I have always been reluctant to have the power to make appointments without the power to remove from office. One cannot remove a sanitary inspector, a medical officer of health or a director of education without the authority of the Secretary of State. Therefore, in scrutinising the work done in community relationships, which is different from the work done in education, housing and health matters, I should like to feel, first, that I had confidence in the reporter and, secondly, if dissatisfied that, as the local authority is paying for his services, we had the right of removal unless we were guaranteed a 50 or 60 per cent. grant.
On the question of the reconstruction which will take place, may I deal with what is happening now? The director of education who has problem children may, depending on how big the authority is, call upon the medical officer of health. The director of education may have two psychologists and three psychiatrists in his department. He may be involved in a contest with the medical officer of health for the utilisation of such specialist services.
All the mail which I have received—and I have had a bag full—has come from people with vested interests. I have not had a letter from a member of the general public on this matter. Broadly speaking, the probation service has acted as a catalyst of authority in the courts. In view of the duties of the reporter, the probation officer will carry out a new rôle. I do not know what the new rôle is. I know that he has a rôle to play in connection with adult offenders and in after-care matters, but now he will be a split personality. How will he apportion the emphasis which he should place on the juvenile service and the adult service?
Basically, I welcome the Bill, but my mind remains open on the question of 126 the efficient utilisation and maximisation of the existing local government services.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)
In the short time available, I should like to deal with some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown), who questioned whether in the Bill we were tackling the root problems of social delinquency. I welcome the Bill and what it tries to do, but we are trying to tackle the problem of the young person after he has become a delinquent. We are trying to correct him after he has gone wrong. So often in the House we are far more concerned with dealing with the problem once it has been created rather than getting at the roots of it.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) spoke about the number of illegitimate children, the number of children who come from broken homes, and the number of children who come from unhappy families. This is a good time for us to consider the type of child with whom we are trying to deal in legislation of this kind.
From my work amongst young people—and I have done a considerable amount in the youth service—I would say that there are two problems in particular. The first is that of the child who desperately wants someone to be interested in him. This, to my mind, is the biggest problem of the broken home and the unhappy family, the problem of the child who has no one who really loves him, no one who is interested in him, interested in what he is doing at school and in his sports and so on. This is one of the biggest social problems which we face in this country today, and we must face it.
It is not a problem which just happens in the family in which there has been a broken marriage, it is not just a problem which occurs in a family where there is a certain amount of poverty. This happens in the well-furnished council house where there is a television set, and a car outside the door. It is the problem of the child who comes home from school and finds there is no one to talk to him because there are another three or four children, and mother is run off her feet looking after them, or because 127 there is a television set on and there is no one to help him with his homework. Many potential delinquents come from such a family as that, where there is no poverty and that sort of circumstances of which one would expect delinquency to be the natural outcome. Therefore, what I hope very much from this Bill and from the setting up of the social work departments is that we shall be able to take a much more personal interest in the children who are likely to get into trouble in one way or another.
I am generalising because I have not much time, but the second reason for the sowing of the seeds of early delinquency is the search for excitement, the search for something to do out of the ordinary. This has been touched on already in the debate, and it is a particularly sad reflection on the drab surroundings of so many of our housing schemes, the lack of recreational facilities, of playing fields, and so on. The hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) touched on this, when he said that when he was younger there were, he thought, more ways in which young people could occupy their leisure time. I think we have to pay more attention to this, and to providing in our housing schemes these modern facilities of one sort and another, to providing means for people to enjoy the more affluent society, to providing for leisure-time activities and seeing they are properly catered for. If we do not do that we automatically give impetus to any delinquent tendencies which there may be.
Therefore I think that we in this House are kidding ourselves if we think this Bill will prevent the type of child I have described from getting into trouble. I do not think we shall do it by this Bill; I do not think we shall prevent the child from getting into trouble the first time. The answer to the problem lies in much deeper social measures which affect the family, which affect the school, which affect the youth organisations. I accept that this Bill is a great step forward in helping the treatment of the young person once he has gone wrong, but it does not deal with the sources from which his delinquency stems. Therefore, I hope that in Committee we shall keep this in mind, and that this Bill will not be regarded as a universal panacea for all our social problems and the problems of the 128 source of crime, as it may be made out to be.
I deal very briefly with the question of the children's panels. I personally welcome the introduction of panels of this informal nature. I cannot agree with my hon. Friends the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro), the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Wolrige-Gordon) and the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison) that the present system of a more judicial nature is necessarily the right thing.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South said that he liked to think of children who had done something wrong being faced with the full panoply and majesty of the law. We do not want this. Two things happen when they are faced with the full panoply and majesty of the law. Either they think it is funny and laugh at it, so the law is mocked—I have seen this happen—or they fear it, which is equally bad. When a child is up for some offence or other, the last thing we want is the creation of a sense of fear. Respect, yes, but not fear.
My worry about facing a child with the full judicial procedure is that the law is either mocked or feared; it is not understood or respected. I think that through these children's panels there is more chance of the law being respected. If the law is respected, I believe we will be able to deal better with the problems of delinquency.
I now come to the quality of the panel members. If we are to take away the full protection of the judicial system, it is all the more important that we should get the right kind of panel members. I disagree with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small) that they should be appointed by ballot. That is not the way to get the right people with the necessary special qualifications. I agree with the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) and the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton) that we want to keep out the "do-gooders" and the people who are perhaps just well intentioned.
We want people who are well intentioned, but with experience among the young, in youth work and delinquency, and who understand the human problems of poverty and all the root causes from 129 which early crime stems. The success or otherwise of these informal children's panels will turn on the quality of the people appointed to them. This is absolutely essential and vital to the success of the Bill.
Another thing that concerns me—and this has been touched on by my right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble)—is the desperate shortage of properly qualified social workers. I am sorry that the Secretary of State is proposing to put back into the Bill the social work departments of the large burghs, as well as those of the counties and cities in Scotland. If he does this, he will spread across Scotland in far more units our scarce resources in terms of social workers. That is why I feel it is a mistake. We have to use what resources we have to the best advantage. This will not be served by scattering them across the face of Scotland. It will be better to concentrate their help in certain areas. This will give us a better chance of using people with specialist training.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries touched on this next matter, which is of importance to social workers with a calling and a sense of vocation. We must not make that calling an excuse for thinking that they will accept their jobs without being properly remunerated. The same argument applies to teaching and many other professions. The only way to get a satisfactory number of social workers is by giving them better pay and conditions. The social worker does not have a nine-to-five job. He has no set hours. Often he cannot see the children he is looking after, or the parents, until they come home from work. It will often mean starting at eight or nine in the morning and not finishing until midnight. The conditions are very difficult. Therefore, we must make sure that, in the remuneration we offer, we take into account the length of hours the social worker has to work and the conditions and problems he has to face.
We must remember, too, the attractions of similar jobs outside social work. I know from my youth work, and from friends who have worked as full-time youth leaders, that there is a tremendous temptation to take jobs as personnel managers or other administrative jobs in industry. If a chap is a good youth 130 leader, or social worker, he has a good chance of commanding a far higher salary in industry than he receives for his social work. If we are to attract the right kind of social worker, we must pay the sort of salaries that are paid in industry to people doing comparable work. If we do not, we shall not get the results that we want.
One source of recruitment of part-time social workers is from among people who have married and brought up a family. They have first-hand experience of the problems of youth, and they have more sympathy with family problems. I hope that people with that kind of background will be recruited for social work.
The Bill will help young people when they go wrong. It will treat many of the social evils which exist now, but it will not prevent crime. It may well prevent someone committing a second crime, but I want youngsters to be prevented from committing a first offence. What will be the relationship between the social work departments and our schools? What will be the relationship between the social work departments and our youth organisations which at the moment deal with the education departments in local authorities? One has only to think of the boredom of some pupils during their later years at school to realise how much can be done through the schools to deal with the problems of delinquency.
Youth organisations probably provide the best means of dealing with the social problems of young people, but these organisations need more money, more help, and more facilities to enable them to cope with their jobs. They need special staff to deal with the problems. There are a large number of uniformed and non-uniformed youth organisations, and thousands of people voluntarily give up their time each week to help young people. I hope that we will make use of all these people to enable us to overcome the problems with which we are now faced. We should make full use not only of the statutory organisations, but of voluntary ones, too.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
There is one respect in which I agree with the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith). The Bill will not cure delinquency. No one could ever imagine that 131 it will. What it seeks to do is to gather together a number of social services which have grown, like Topsy.
When I was a Member of the Scottish Advisory Committee on the Treatment of Offenders, the first thing that I asked the Scottish Office to do was to give me a diagram setting out all the various bodies associated with the problems of delinquency. The Scottish Office found it difficult to find a piece of paper large enough on which to list the various bodies and how they fitted in with one another.
The debate has shown that there is general agreement on the objectives of the Bill. Those objectives are very good. The first is that the local authorities should deal with all welfare services. These problems are associated with the family, and families are visited by National Assistance, child welfare, probation and N.S.P.C.C. officers, all of whom go into the one home; this is a waste of skilled manpower.
So it is generally agreed that the welfare services should be co-ordinated and based on the family, but nothing dramatic will happen quickly. Both the burghs and the counties have to carry out most of these services now. The Bill will bring about an administrative reorganisation, but, without more money and a keener desire to act, nothing much will happen. All the talk about remand centres and homes of various kinds has been going on for 20 or 30 years, but without an effort nothing will be done. When a Government face priorities and have to choose among a school, a hospital and a prison, one can understand their choice.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) described the problem over the setting up of the children's panels. I am sorry that he did not undertake his duties as a magistrate, when I would have listened with more care to him. There are very few studies of delinquency. Many people have ideas, prejudices, theories and hunches, but it is difficult to make up one's mind what should happen to delinquents.
I know of no Member of this House who made such a study of delinquency and criminology as Sir George Benson, who once said to me, "I have come to 132 the conclusion that it does not matter whether you send the delinquent to an approved school, a borstal, a detention centre, or to prison—the curious thing is that the same percentage always fall by the wayside again."
These panels will have the great advantage of being able to experiment. Many of our magistrates and sheriffs appear to have no interest in the kind of place to which boys can be sent and it is important that those on the panels should have this training. If they find that a borstal or detention centre or remand home is not suitable for a juvenile delinquent they should be able to take him back and arrange some other treatment.
We lack knowledge of how to treat delinquents and what success we can expect. I hope that these panels will be able to gather this information, and, through training and experience, find an answer to this problem.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)
The House will agree that we have had a constructive debate which, unusually, has cut across party differences. The Bill has been generally welcomed, but I hope that the Under-Secretary will answer many of the questions raised. Although there has been general agreement on the principle of the Bill, it became clear that there are many qualifications about some of its provisions. I hope that the Under-Secretary can dispel them tonight. We want the Bill to succeed—that has been made clear—but I must warn the Government that many questions relating to the prerequisites for success were not answered either by the Secretary of State or the Government's spokesman in another place.
The primary objective of the Bill is to provide a single door for those in need of the help and compassion of the welfare services. We have been reminded of the large number of associations and official bodies which have been in touch with us over the last few months, and they illustrate the many services and skills which the Bill sets out to unite. I believe that it is right to seek this unification, not simply for the sake of administrative tidiness but for the benefit of those who need these services. We are dealing with people, not with parcels, and the pattern of administration must be adapted to 133 meet the needs of the people, and not the people adapted to fit the pattern.
The Bill outlines a pattern which should meet the needs of the young and the old, but I repeat what my right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble said—that the pattern can be effective only if there are sufficient people to work in it. My right hon. Friend pointed to the severe shortage of social workers in Scotland. The Adjournment debate initiated in March by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) underlined the shortage of children's officers. That shortage exists in other welfare spheres, too. The Minister's reply to that debate emphasised the difficulty of recruiting more workers in these fields. I fear that the shortage of social workers may become acute unless the new structure, with its prospect of better career opportunities and greater professional satisfaction, transforms the present recruitment scene. I hope that the Minister, in commenting on this, will not encourage us to welcome the Bill without recognising and discussing the real problems of training, recruitment and staffing which confront us.
I am particularly disturbed by the staffing problem when I contemplate the large number of departments which may be created by the Bill. Almost every hon. Member who has spoken has commented on the Government's intention to reintroduce the large burghs into Clause 1. There is a clear division of opinion here which cuts across party lines and I listened with interest to the divergent opinions expressed by the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) and the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton). The balance of my agreement came down on the side of the hon. Member for Bothwell, but there is general agreement that the balance of decision in this matter may be a fine one.
It is surprising to see how the Government have changed direction in this matter in the last few months. Paragraphs 48 to 52 of the White Paper, Social Work in the Community, dealt without room for doubt with the question of the administrative areas. This was not simply, as some hon. Members have suggested, a proposal put forward for discussion so that the Government could, 134 in the fullness of time, make up their mind. In paragraph 52 the White Paper clearly states:The Government think that on balance it[...] would be best to place responsibility for the new department on counties (including counties of cities), and to empower and encourage the counties with the smallest populations to join with other authorities to form joint departments serving their combined populations.There was nothing consultative about the tone of that. It was a clear decision. Then something happened at which we can only guess. When the Bill first appeared, large burghs were there as large as life in Clause 1. The other place removed, I suggest wisely, this provision for the inclusion of the large burghs and we learned today from the Secretary of State that the Government intend to put them back again.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the arguments advanced by the Convention of Royal Burghs in its letter which I think all hon. Members have received in the last few days. I have particular sympathy for the point that services of this kind, dealing with individuals and the real human problems which individuals confront, are best handled locally by people who know the individuals and understand the problems. But even if the new service is operated by the larger authorities or groups of authorities, I presume that the organisation envisaged by the Bill is such that there will be sub-offices or area offices who will preserve the local contact and understanding which are essential to services of this kind. I regret that we have not heard more from the Government about the form of organisation which will be introduced. However, I am heartened by the second part of paragraph 50 of the White Paper, which said:It is proposed, for example, that in large areas the new department should work through area offices easily accessible to the community and staffed by trained workers able and empowered to provide an effective social service at local level.Is this the Government proposal? I ask this because we have learned so little about the form of organisation that will be adopted by the local authorities.
I appreciate that the Government possibly do not wish at this stage to impose a form of organisation on local authorities. But if the Government ask us to 135 give a Second Reading to this Bill which provides for a remarkable advance in what my hon Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith) described as the process of evolution, it is only reasonable that we should expect to hear from the Government very much more than we have heard about the form of organisation which they envisage. Clearly more information would help us to determine our final view on the very difficult question, whether or not the large burghs should be included. The debate has shown that my hon. Friends, in their anxiety to find a system which will work and work effectively, are united in seeking a reduction rather than an increase in the total number of administrative areas.
I remind the House again that if the administrative areas are to be those covered by county councils and counties of cities and the large burghs, we shall confront a situation in which there could be a maximum of 56 departments of social work following the enactment of this Bill. How on earth would local authorities set out to staff 56 departments? Where in Scotland would we find 56 qualified directors of social work? The qualifications of a director of social work are to be prescribed by the Secretary of State. Presumably they will be stringent qualifications; they must be. Where are we to find these people? What sort of career structure could we provide for other social welfare workers within this enormous number of administrative organisations?
The Government may say that it is not supposed that there will be as many as 56 departments because of the powers of amalgamation which local authorities have. In another place great emphasis was placed by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, the Joint Under-Secretary of State, on the amalgamation procedure. He said:The Secretary of State will feel that he has failed in his intention if there is not a voluntary get together. The important thing is that the service should be organised in units sufficiently big to enable them to carry out their functions re a sonably."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 4th April, 1968; Vol. 290, c. 1334.]I agree with every word, but to add 21 large burghs to the 35 other local authority areas already provided for in the Bill hardly seems a sensible way to 136 begin the process of reducing the total number of organisations.
The Secretary of State's explanation today of the reintroduction of the large burghs was unsatisfactory and unconvincing. If I understood the right hon. Gentleman correctly, in effect he said that he wanted to reintroduce the large burghs because it would be wise to avoid at this stage a major change in the local structure because of the major changes which almost certainly will follow the Report of the Royal Commission on the reorganisation of local government.
I can see the strength of that argument, but I would advance a different argument from the same premise. It is that there will certainly be major changes following the legislation which I presume will follow the Royal Commission's Report, and if we start with up to 56 organisations as is now to be proposed there will be a very major change for the directors of social work and their staffs and all the local authorities. It would be far wiser to anticipate as intelligently as we can that there will have to be a reduction in the total number of administering authorities within the next few years and that fewer departments should be introduced now in order to make the process of transition less complicated and less frustrating for those involved in this great venture.
§ Mr. MacArthur
I have considered that. I have also considered that some large burghs are larger than some small counties. I agree that there is not an easy solution. In view of what the noble Lord said in another place, if it is the Secretary of State's wish to encourage the process of amalgamation I believe that the way to start is not by creating 21 additional administrative areas.
I come to the question of timing. There have been a number of arguments, not only here, to the effect that the effective introduction of the Bill should be postponed until the Royal Commission has reported. Some have gone so far as to suggest that the Bill should not take effect until the new local government structure which will follow the report is in operation. The noble Lord, Lord 137 Hughes, pointed out in another place that, if we were to wait to the end of this road, it would probably be 1975 before we would see the Bill functioning.
My view is that it is right to get ahead now. Compelling reasons can always be advanced for doing nothing and waiting just a little longer. I believe, however, that on balance it would be right to make a start now. I therefore regret that I disagree with the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie), who said that we could tolerate a postponement of up to two years. If we wait much longer, yet another generation of youngsters will have grown up and so have escaped the benefits which I believe that the Bill could bring to them. A delay of six months might be acceptable. I believe that more than that would be wrong. After all, we have already waited seven years. I do not think that we should wait any longer.
I hope that this expression of support for speed will not encourage the Under-Secretary to think that we shall allow the Bill to be rushed through Committee. We shall not. Many detailed questions have to be asked. We shall expect detailed answers to them.
There are some general questions, too. An important one was touched on by my noble Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North, earlier. It is the need to protect the rights of the individual. Clause 15 gives local authorities very wide powers to remove a child from its home and family. I hope that the Under-Secretary will emphasise that the greatest care and reflection must be exercised by the new departments before that power is used. A case which on the face of it appeared disturbing was described in the Scottish newspapers a few days ago. The case underlined the need for great care before this ultimate power is exercised. I hope that the Under-Secretary will confirm that, wherever possible, the treatment and training which a child needs will be applied in the child's home, because normally I believe that it is there that treatment and training are most likely to succeed. Having said that, let me make it clear at once that I accept that there are cases where, for the treatment or training to succeed, the child must be taken somewhere else.
138 I turn now to the much debated question of children's hearings provided in Part III. I welcome the case study and treatment approach of this Part of the Bill. I welcome in particular the new conditions under which a child can be brought before a hearing. Clause 32 sets out nine conditions on which a child may be brought before a hearing. I believe that seven of these are new and that under only two of the nine heads could a child be brought before a juvenile court today. This shows the breadth of scope of the Bill.
We on this side have considerable reservations in welcoming this Part of the Bill, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) emphasised. As a result of the introduction of these hearings, a child will be removed from the panoply and atmosphere of the juvenile court, and I agree, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith), that this is probably desirable; but not enough attention has been paid to the other consequence, that the child will be removed from the judicial approach which characterises a juvenile court, a judicial approach which works for the legal protection of the child.
There seems to be no provision in the Bill for the legal representation of the child before the panel. There appears to be no provision that a caution should be administered to the child. In the absence of any such requirement, the child may somehow be encouraged to admit his alleged guilt.
The child will now face a panel of lay people, and the case will be represented to the panel by a reporter. No qualifications whatever are laid down for the reporter, in contrast to the position of the director of social work, for whom, under Clause 3(3), the Secretary of State is required to lay down prescribed qualifications. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries quoted from the Kilbrandon Report to remind the House how that Committee considered that the reporter should have precise and important qualifications, and I recall that he asked where we should find reporters with such qualifications in Scotland. Nothing at all is required of the reporter by way of qualification, and we have heard nothing from the Government about it. Yet the reporter's rôle will 139 be critical. He can be said to have a rôle at the hearing which embraces that of the probation officer and the procurator fiscal.
There is then the question of the qualifications of the members of the panel. The Secretary of State told us today that the greatest care will be taken in selecting members to serve on the panels, but one well-meaning but inadequate member could undo all the good of the hearing and do enormous harm. There must be large-scale training for these good people who will serve on the panels because they will be asked to take on which is, in effect, a professional rôle. I believe that residential training will be required. Moreover, there should be special provision to enable trainee panel members to attend children's hearings.
By contrast, the White Paper, Children in Trouble, tells us that, in England and Wales, juvenile courts, with their judicial approach, are to remain. The Under-Secretary of State will appreciate that we have many reservations about this Part of the Bill, all centred on the legal rights of the child and the protection of the child, whose rights must not be ignored in the local authority's understandable anxiety to act in loco parentis.
Now, one or two other points which I wish to take up. The major outstanding one concerns the rôle of probation officers. The hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing)—I am sorry that she is not here at the moment, as I wish to refer to her speech—questioned what room there would be for specialisation. The White Paper referred to this in paragraph 11:As most present social workers have acquired their training and experience in one speciality or another, the use of their specialist skills would continue.Against that, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said in another place:… I must resist the idea that particular responsibilities of the social work department are such that they should be carried out by officers with qualifications specified for the purpose."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 23rd April, 1968; Vol. 291, c. 509.]There appears to be some contradiction between what Lord Hughes said and what the White Paper said, and it is important that it should be cleared up. It is doubly important because it raises the problem of the situation confronting probation 140 officers. I do not believe that there is a single perfect solution for the probation officer problem. There is a real need to strike a balance.
Three possible courses could be taken. One possibility is to separate the adult probation rôle from the rest of the probation rôle. I do not think that that is satisfactory, although it has been argued by the Probation Officers' Association. I do not think that it is satisfactory for the very reason advanced in the White Paper, that the career structure would be inadequate.
The second course is that provided for in the Bill, that the probation service should be absorbed within the new departments of social work, and that no identification of specialists skills would be retained.
The third is the one I wish to advance, that while the service should be incorporated into the new departments of social work the probation officers should continue to maintain their adult probation rôle. I see no reason why the probation officer within the new organisation should not retain his probationary identification so that he would be enabled to appear in the adult courts, continuing his present rôle of probation officer. This is important, because the probation officer in the adult court must be an officer who is known to the court and in whom it has confidence. Failing this, I believe that the courts in Scotland will be less ready than they are now to invoke probation That would be a very serious loss.
I trust that the Minister will say something about the rôle of the voluntary organisations, which were mentioned by many hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries and the hon. Member for Rutherglen. The Secretary of State said that the voluntary organisations would still have a large part to play, and I am glad to have that reassurance.
However, the position of the homes and other residential buildings run by the voluntary organisations is rather uncertain in the light of Clause 60(2)(c). The Church of Scotland runs no fewer than 75 homes and agencies of various kinds. How will they stand when the Bill is enacted?
In opening for this side of the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for 141 Argyll referred evocatively to the "fragile generation". Too often in the past the fragile generation has become the fear-some generation of a few years later. There were many references to the outbreak of violence which was the background against which so much of the debate has taken place.
I do not believe that there is anything contradictory between providing firm action to protect the public from violence and providing firm action to protect children, the fragile generation, from the influences which may break their fragility. I accept that there is possibly no cure in the end for violence, as several hon. Members said. But I have no doubt that if we can protect children from the influences which turn them from rascals into ruffians we shall find that a major advance has been made in combating the source of the frightening increase in crime in Scotland today.
The Secretary of State described the Bill as a pioneering effort. I believe that it is, but for the pioneering to be successful many prerequisites must be met. I hope that the Minister will comment on many of the requirements which were raised during the debate.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Millan)
The characteristic of the debate has been a general welcome for the Bill. I do not think that one hon. Member who spoke did not say that he supported it, although hon. Members mostly went on to say that there were a number of detailed points they wanted to discuss in Committee. The Bill is long and complicated and in some respects we are breaking new ground, and I appreciate, therefore, that there must be a large number of points we shall have to discuss, sometimes at length, in Committee. I am not able to deal with all the points raised tonight, but I want to say something about the major issues.
Before doing so, however, I want to refer briefly to one or two points which were not developed to any considerable length. We were asked, for example, why we were proceeding in this way in Scotland whereas English Ministers, in their recent White Paper, decided to do something else. That struck me as a surprising question. We are normally urged that Scotland should go its own way, and that 142 is what it is doing in this case. I am naturally interested in what my English colleagues do, but I do not consider the fact that they have reached a different conclusion on a matter to be in any way conclusive or even influential in deciding what we should do in Scotland. We are rather ahead of the English in any case and I hope that we shall maintain that advance.
I was asked about the structural relationship with the National Health Service. A green paper about National Health Service structure will be published later this year and, obviously, I cannot anticipate it. But I take the point that the new social work departments will have a considerable connection, and will need to cooperate at many points, with the medical services, particularly those under medical officers of health. That co-operation and also co-operation with other departments will be esssential if the new social work departments are to do their job properly.
I was also asked about the position of voluntary bodies. I repeat the assurance of my right hon. Friend that, of course, there is a place—an enhanced place—for the voluntary bodies in the structure we are building here. A number of these bodies have apprehensions—for example, the R.S.S.P.C.C.—about some of the provisions of the Bill. At the moment, we are discussing their anxieties with them and I hope that we shall reach an agreeable solution. Generally speaking, we are very anxious to maintain the status of the voluntary organisations.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) very well pointed out, we must not confuse voluntary with amateur, because many of these organisations employ professional staff—very often rather better and more qualified professional staff than do many of our local authorities at present.
I was also asked about the kind of cases which would be dealt with under the Bill by the social work departments. For example, I was asked about unmarried mothers. These are covered in the general provisions of Clause 12. If there are any particular difficulties about their circumstances which hon. Members feel may not be adequately covered in the Bill as drafted, we can discuss them in Committee. But, certainly, the Bill 143 is meant to comprehend all the individuals who may at one time or another, for a wide variety of reasons, require the services which the social work departments will provide.
There is very considerable difficulty over timing, because of the existence of the Royal Commission. I was glad that the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) and hon. Gentlemen generally, agreed with the Government's decision to go ahead with the Bill. To wait would have meant waiting, not just till next year or the year after, but considerably longer. We either have to act now or put back this reform for many years. Considering that we are dealing here, on the juvenile delinquency side, with a problem recognised as urgent as far back as 1961 when the Kilbrandon Committee was established, we would have been failing in our duty if we did not proceed now. Nevertheless, the fact that a Royal Commission on Local Government is sitting, gives us considerable difficulty when we come to the question of deciding the local authority administrative structure for the new social work department.
I would like to say one or two things about this, because it was one of the features mentioned during the debate by most hon. Members. It is not possible, as the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) suggested, to anticipate the Royal Commission's report, for the very simple reason that the Government do not know, any more than he does, what the Royal Commission will recommend. Certainly, at this stage, we cannot possibly know what the actual reform will be following the Royal Commission's Report. One important element of information in making a decision on this point is inevitably missing and we have to do the best we can in those circumstances.
It seems that the argument of size used by a number of hon. Gentlemen is certainly not all one way. As the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire pointed out, many of the large burghs are considerably larger, in population and resources and also present a greater number of problems of the sort with which this Bill is to deal, than many of the counties. Similarly, I do not think that size by itself betokens efficiency.
144 This was the point made by my hon. Friends the Members for Rutherglen (Mr. Gregor Mackenzie) and Motherwell (Mr. Lawson). There are some local authorities which do good work, some which do less good work, and the same applies, I am sorry to say, to some of the larger authorities. It is true that from the point of view of providing the staff and a structure giving satisfactory promotion, obviously the larger authority has an advantage over the smaller. This is only one of the considerations that we have to keep in mind.
Earl of Dalkeith
Surely the point is not so much a question of size of the individual areas, be it burgh or county, but the number of authorities. Under the Royal Commission's proposals, is it not likely that we will have fewer rather than more?
§ Mr. Millan
I have already said that I do not have the slightest idea of what we will have under the Royal Commission's proposals, and neither has the hon. Gentleman. Similarly, on co-operation with the other Departments, we do not have a very firm guide to the position. It is true that in education, where co-operation is very important, it would have to continue to exist, and it would suggest that we go over to the counties.
On the other hand, as my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell has pointed out, it is equally important to have co-operation with medical officers of health and housing committees, and that would suggest that the new social work department, at least at present, should be based on the large burghs as well on the counties and cities. Our conclusion—and I am glad to see that my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) agreed with this—was that we should introduce provisions which were least disturbing to the existing local authority set-up.
We shall not discourage combinations of local authorities, and I look forward to the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire using his persuasive powers to get the large burgh of Perth and the County of Perthshire to combine their services. He is very welcome to do that. We shall encourage him, and the same will apply elsewhere.
145 Another feature which was discussed at considerable length was the probation service. One must remember, in discussing this, that probation, so far as it is concerned with children, will disappear as a separate service, and will go into the social work department. Therefore, we are already dealing with a reduced probation service.
My general approach has been that the nature of the work which is done by the probation officer is far more analogous to the kind of work that is done by other social workers than it is to anything which may be done by anyone who is concerned only with court work. There is a basic training, a basic professional responsibility, and professional expertise which straddle probation work and other forms of local authority social work. From that starting point, the inevitable conclusion is that the probation service should be part of the social work department.
§ Mr. Noble rose——
§ Mr. Millan
I know that some probation officers are very worried, and I want to deal with this if the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to, particularly as to their status with the court.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted the Morison Committee. The position in Scotland has improved considerably since that Committee reported a number of years ago, and it has improved without any change in the administrative structure, because the probation service in Scotland is, and has remained, very largely a local authority service. Although I appreciate the apprehensions of individual probation officers about any whittling away of their professional and independent status in relation to the courts, it ought to be pointed out to them that many other professional people are employed by local auhorities. I have never heard it suggested, for example, that a medical officer of health, who is a member of a profession which is very sensitive about professional status, has his professional status reduced by being employed by a local authority. I certainly do not feel that this is a sufficiently impressive argument to set aside the other arguments for bringing the probation service within the social work departments.
§ Mr. Noble rose——146
§ Mr. Millan
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish this I will give way.
The service in the courts will not change overnight. It will not happen that when social work departments are established, the very next day in our sheriff courts, to deal with adult offenders, completely new people will appear who have previously been employed as residential staff in old persons' homes or in children's homes. They will not suddenly appear to give the kind of service that the courts have previously had from probation officers. There will, in practice, be a continuity in the service and in the personnel.
To assuage some doubts that both the service and the courts have about the change, we are providing that under Clause 27 local authorities will have to provide schemes for the operation of the services to the court which are provided by the probation service at the moment. The schemes will be subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, and may also provide for the association of sheriffs with the social work committee, or the sub-committee of the social work committee, which deals with probation work.
Moving on to the other question of staff generally, I do, of course, appreciate the very considerable importance——
§ Mr. Noble
The hon. Gentleman says that he will give way, but he does not. The hon. Gentleman has repeated exactly the argument about the probation service which his right hon. Friend made and which nobody accepts. If it is argued that because their work straddles the sort of work done by other people who will be in the service, and, therefore, they must be in it, exactly the same argument could be applied to every minister of every church, whose work straddles all of this, and who, I hope, will not be directly in this. The argument simply does not hold up.
§ Mr. Millan
I do not know that that is a very good analogy. Only this morning, I received in my post a statement from the Standing Conference of Organisations of Social Workers, which included the Association of Child Care Workers, The Association of Family Case Workers, the Association of Psychiatric Social Workers, the Association of Social 147 Workers, the Institute of Medical Social Workers, the Moral Welfare Workers Association, the Society of Mental Welfare Officers and the National Association of Probation Officers. Therefore, they seem to consider that the kind of functions which they carry out are analogous to those carried out by the other staff I have just mentioned.
The question of staff is very important, and I agree that our welfare departments in Scotland are inadequately staffed. I made that point clear in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) on an adjournment debate as recently as 27th March. I also made it clear in that debate—obviously I am not able to give all the details now—that the number of courses and students in child care was increasing. Hon. Members might read what I said on that occasion as part of their preparation for the Committee stage of this Bill. Apart from child care workers, there are other courses whose numbers, we anticipate, will similarly increase over the next few years.
I agree with those who have said that the concept of the social work department will not work successfully unless it is adequately staffed. We attach considerable importance to this. But we must not forget the improvements which have been made and the improvements being planned. This is the sort of thing which we can discuss at greater length in Committee.
I wish to say something about the operation of the children's Panels and children's hearings. There has been a good deal of discussion today about the problem of delinquency. I would not pretend that I have anything particularly profound to say about it. I had almost come to the same conclusion as Sir George Benson without having anything like his very considerable experience. Many of us are baffled by this problem and are not sure of the solution to it. What I am clear about is, first, that the incidence is increasing, and, secondly—and here I agree very much with the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) and a number of other hon. Members—that we have to deal with this by social and community measures and better pro- 148 vision as well as by anything which we may do in the Bill or anything which we are doing at the moment through the juvenile courts.
The hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) said that the juvenile courts had not had a chance. I should have thought that was an extremely inaccurate assessment. She also said that the juvenile courts had not been properly studied. But that is what the Kilbrandon Committee is all about. As the hon. Lady will know, Sheriff Walker, who is now Sheriff of Lanarkshire and who, I imagine, knows a good deal about sheriffs' courts, was a member of the Kilbrandon Committee. The Kilbrandon Committee produced a very exhaustive report about juvenile courts and came to the conclusion, with which most of us here would agree, that they should be replaced by the kind of system provided for in the Bill.
§ Mrs. Ewing rose——
§ Mr. Millan
No, I have not time.
I take the point very seriously, and I emphasise that in making a change of this sort we must not reduce the rights of the child or of his parents. I have personally taken a good deal of care about this matter in the drafting of the Bill. If we have not succeeded in dealing with the point, I shall be willing to listen to Amendments in Committee. I think that we have provided very considerable safeguards in the Bill. Certainly it is my intention that they should be provided.
If there is any question of proof being required the matter is not dealt with by the children's hearing at all. It is dealt with by the sheriff court, and before hon. Members, as some of them did today, get quite so enthusiastic about questions with regard to the burden of proof, and so on, and our present juvenile courts, they might, perhaps, keep in mind that in 95 per cent. of the cases, as Kilbrandon pointed out, the child concerned pleads guilty and no proof is led whatsoever. I think it is very unlikely, even looking at it from this point of view, that we shall find that the new panels will represent any kind of reduction at all, and I do not intend that they should, in the legal rights of the children who come before them.
149 In any case, of course, the procedure in the children's panel is to be the subject of consultation with the Council on Tribunals. We have already had certain consultations with the Tribunal. It exists, of course, to protect the ordinary citizen again abrogation of rights and abrogation of responsibility by bodies which a re non-elected and are not judicial in the normal sense. We are very anxious that the procedures should be agreed with the Council.
All the methods of disposal at present available to juvenile courts will be available to the panels as well, but the really important thing here—and my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Thomas Steele) put his finger on it—is that the children's hearings will have continuing responsibility for the child. In other words, it is not a question of disposing of the child and then forgetting him till the next time he unfortunately comes before the court. They will have a continuing responsibility, which they will have to discharge, for the children who come before them.
As for recruitment, the pattern is laid down in Schedule 2 and it provides for training to which I attach importance. I would not wish to be dogmatic about this, but I think that any intelligent, reasonable human being with an interest in children and willing to give this service and do the training which will be required, will be considered and put through the various processes for membership of these children's hearings. I believe that we shall be able to get satisfactory people. Again, I agree with what has been said by a number of hon. Gentlemen, that that is absolutely essential for the effective working of these panels.
While most of our debate today has been preoccupied either with matters where there are differences of opinion or with the completely new functions of the children's panels, there has been this wide measure of agreement, particularly over the concept of the social work departments, dealing with a wide variety of welfare services affecting the sick, with after-care, provisions, with the elderly, the young—indeed, everyone in the community who needs the help of the social work departments. Everyone today, without exception, I think, has accepted the need for breaking the lines of demarca- 150 tion between one local authority department and another, and for providing this kind of comprehensive service which is outlined in the Bill.
I do not, of course, believe that the Bill will solve all problems in the field of social work, far less in the field of juvenile delinquency. What I do believe is that it provides us with a better frame-work for solving those problems than we have ever had before. I am glad it has been welcomed on that basis, and it is on that basis that I very warmly commend it to the House.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
That notwithstanding anything in paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 59 (Standing Committees (constitution and powers)) and Standing Order No. 61 (Scottish Standing Committee), the Bill be considered by the Scottish Standing Committee.—[Mr. Millan.]