HC Deb 28 October 1975 vol 898 cc1407-35

'In subsection 44(1) of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 the following paragraphs are inserted after subsection (1)(a)— (b) to pay a penalty or damages whether with or without any other requirement by virtue of making an order that the penalty or damages be paid by the parent or guardian of the child instead of by the child, unless the children's hearing is satisfied that the parent or guardian cannot be found or that he has not contributed to the grounds under which the referral has been brought by neglecting to exercise due care of the child, or (c) to pay security for his good behaviour by virtue of making an order that the security be paid by the parent or guardian of the child, or (d) to carry out such unpaid community service as the hearing may consider appropriate to the treatment of the child given the grounds for referral and the age, mental condition and physique of the child. and the following subsection is inserted after subsection (2)— (2A) In making an order under paragraphs (b) and (c) of subsection (1) hereof, the hearing shall give the parent or guardian time to pay such penalty, damages or security but should payment not be made within the stipulated period or any extension thereof which may subsequently be granted by the hearing, then the hearing shall be entitled to vary the supervision requirement provided that nothing in this subsection shall be construed as limiting the powers of variation contained in Section 47 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 or any other section of that Act."'.—[Mr. Cordon Wilson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This clause is for Scotland one of the most important that we are discussing this evening, because it gives the House the first opportunity since the 1968 Social Work (Scotland) Act was passed to consider the powers of the panels and the children's hearings which were set up for dealing with children in difficulty and trouble where the emphasis was placed on the need for treatment.

8.30 p.m.

During the five years or so that have elapsed since the new system was introduced there has been, particularly recently, a rising volume of complaint as to whether resources are adequate to implement the concept under which this enlightened system was introduced. One of the complaints concerns the main method of dealing with children. Under Section 44 of the Social Services (Scotland) Act, after the grounds of referral have been accepted or proved, the course of action taken to deal with the child has been by way of a supervision requirement. That requirement covers almost nothing and everything. Under it there could be what used to be the old probation order whereby children were subject to supervision, so that in a sense they were on good behaviour.

The alternative would be to adopt a requirement for residence in a specified establishment, usually a List D school, or a school which used to be an approved school. Under the first course a child is expected to be of good behaviour under the supervision of the social work department, with right of review by the hearing, with or without action being taken by the supervisory officer.

The problem is that the good intentions of this system—and I am one of the many who are enthusiastic about it—have in a sense been undermined by the lack of resources available to social work departments and the children's hearings. Sometimes this lack of resources covers an inability to find a place in a List D school. The Government have been trying to find resources, but there has been difficulty about getting children into such a school immediately the hearing has decided on that course of action. That is the worst of all possible worlds, because if the treatment is desirable, the last thing the child should be told is to go away and come back, perhaps in six weeks' time, when he might get in. Sometimes, depending on the vacancies available, the child can go immediately to the establishment of the hearing's choosing.

The fundamental concept in the 1968 Act was not any criminal sanction against the child, and I agree with that. It is premature to bring in criminal sanctions during formative childhood years. Criminal sanctions tend to scar a child's life. There has been frustration among members of panels about the absence of resources. Frustration is also caused by a shortage of experienced social workers or by social workers changing departments or areas.

A lack of continuity may have robbed the system of the guidance envisaged when the legislation was first enacted. In many instances such guidance was given, and it would be wrong to say that the intentions of the Act have always been thwarted. Probably in the majority of cases the opposite is the case.

In certain areas where there is a shortfall in social workers supervision has not been of the desired standard. The whole object of these provisions for dealing with children was to see that guidance could be given on the spot by the social worker and would override the bad influence of parents when they were not taking sufficient care of the child or were misleading the child in its development. Because of these two factors, the social work system and the children's hearings have in some ways come under attack by the public.

I instance a child who has been repeatedly before a hearing. Perhaps because of parental background or trends of behaviour, that child became eligible for a List D school but was unable to get into that school. Two things might follow. The first is a hiatus—the time during which there is no execution of the decision of the hearing, which makes the hearing itself look ridiculous. It reduces the authority of the members of the panel who are discussing the question with the parents if they cannot deliver the goods, if they think that it is better for the child to be dealt with in that fashion.

The second way in which the system has fallen down is if the panel, seeing that there will not be any prospect of finding a home or educational establishment suitable for the child and recommended by the social work department, perhaps even on occasion with the agreement of the parents, has to decide on some other alternative. That other alternative might very well be supervision without the adequate back-up which the whole system would require. In those two situations—and they have occurred and there is sufficient evidence to show that they have—this new scheme, which has been in operation for five years, although the enactment was seven years ago, could fall into disrepute and that might lead to its abolition.

What I am suggesting in the new clause is that, accepting that it is unlikely in the current United Kingdom situation that there will be any major increase in social work allocation, or any major programme to provide either the List D schools or other residential establishments required—approved schools or List D schools are not the only things and one must look at other training schools or establishments which might be of advantage to the child, because it is the treatment of the child which is looked upon as the important thing—the panels are faced with choosing between supervision and detention. What else are they to do?

The whole concept of a children's hearing was a discussion among the reporter and the members of the hearing and parents. It was intended to be, and probably is, one of the main strengths of the whole new arrangement. But if other children find that their peers are getting off lightly for what used to be called offences but are now, in the language of the Social Work Act, described as social indiscipline, or something of that sort, that is an encouragement for others to follow suit. What is suggested in the new clause is an intermediate method of providing ways by which the hearings can adopt alternative solutions which are not primarily dependent upon the provision of new accommodation, which may not be available because of lack of Government funds, ways to help to push up the authority of the panel members and give them more authority in trying to encourage parents to co-operate within the system.

I should like to go over the proposals and explain them in relation to the problem I have outlined. The first thing I should like to make clear is that these proposals are not intended to reintroduce the criminal or quasi-criminal system which used to operate, either under Section 50 of the old Juvenile Courts Act or the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1957, or the sheriff juvenile courts, which in many other parts of the country took the place of the special JP courts. What it does is to introduce a supervision requirement, which is the basic formula produced in the Social Work (Scotland) Act. That is the provision that in given circumstances, if the hearing finds it useful and desirable and, above all, in the best interests of the child—that must be the crucial criterion—to make an order incorporated in the supervision requirement, a penalty or damages be paid either by the child or by the parent. The option is given, and the formula that is adopted has worked for many years.

A penalty is not a fine and has no criminal sanction behind it. It will not necessarily scar the future development of the child. Such a penalty could bring home to a range of children who come from good family backgrounds the need for more care and individual responsibility. Although arrangements are made for the penalty to be paid by the parent or guardian, it could, by agreement between the parent or guardian and the panel, be deducted from the pocket money of the child appearing before the panel.

In my earlier days, as a solicitor, I had some experience as a JP and procurator fiscal in an old Section 50 juvenile court. I have seen parents who really wanted to encourage their children to come back. There was no problem in requiring constant supervision or introduction into a List D school. It is helpful to the child for the money to be deducted from his pocket money, because it brings home to him the importance of individual responsibility for his acts.

The second ground—damages—could relate to a child who had committed a minor form of vandalism. The provision means that by agreement there could be some form of restitution, which is one of the best ways of dealing with vandalism. It brings home to the child before the panel for the first time that there is individual responsibility for damaging public or private property. It makes the child realise that no one lives in limbo and that someone else in society is automatically affected by any action he takes.

I attach a great deal of weight to the second provision, which is for paying security for good behaviour. When a supervision requirement is made the hearing may consider that in addition a little more encouragement should be given to the child and perhaps to the parent. The hearing may say that if a certain sum of money is paid—not necessarily in a lump sum but by instalments—that payment will be lodged for security of good behaviour of the child, in addition to the supervision order. That gives more chance for the parent to co-operate with the supervising officer in giving guidance to the child. That co-operation is essential. The power is an intermediate one that the hearings do not have at present.

The third power contained in the clause is that there should be a requirement—again, built into the main order—that the child should: carry out such unpaid community service as the hearing may consider appropriate to the treatment of the child given the grounds for referral and the age, mental condition and physique of the child. I am not suggesting a form of forced labour, merely that there is room for action by the child who has been before the hearing to help him gain an understanding of communal responsibility.

I am thinking, for instance, of an order for the removal of graffiti which may have been put on walls, either by that child or by someone else—it does not necessarily have to be related directly to the grounds on which the child has been brought before the hearing. Perhaps it could be the picking up of litter, or clearing up the back lots of tenements, to encourage responsibility. Perhaps it could be dishwashing in an old people's home. It could be an additional useful power to have the child do gardening work at the homes of old folk. All these things would be of use to the whole community and they would bring in some form of community service.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

How does one enforce this community work? What sanctions are provided?

Mr. Wilson

The main concept of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 is treatment of the child and co-operation with the parents and an attempt to talk matters out with them and gain their co-operation. It is only in those terms that corrective action can be taken. It can be taken in institutions, but all too often it proves a failure there, with supervision officers, for example able to give only a limited time to a case. The concept is set against the background of co-operation.

In drafting my proposed subsection (2A), I had to make a decision about what sort of power there should be to implement the decision of the hearing. My first decision was in relation to some monetary penalty in that there should be a transfer of the arrangement to, say, the sheriff court, which has the machinery by which, in adult cases, fines can be col- lected. But I thought that that would go against the whole concept of the Act under which these hearings were introduced.

Needless to say, it was a strong temptation to say that panels must have the opportunity to enforce the conditions, and my proposal is that this should be done if possible by way of agreement for a certain range of jobs and that if agreement were not reached, the hearing could make an order. If the parents did not comply with that order, it would be necessary, under the terms of the clause, to bring the case back before the hearing for alternative action.

I am not suggesting that that is the strongest way of enforcement. If the system did not work out—and we have committed ourselves to a rolling review of the legislation—there is no reason why, if it was considered necessary, we should not build in more compulsory methods of enforcement. But, meanwhile, let us try this system of keeping the basic provisions of the Social Work Act while trying to give them more power and trying to work in co-operation with the children.

In any event, certain of the powers proposed are those in which many parents worried about their children—those I am considering would not be the habitual attenders before children's panels but those there for the first time, having kicked over the traces—would be willing to participate. My main argument is that, after some five years of experience, certain gaps in the present system have emerged.

The resources are not adequate at present. Above all, something has to be done, and it has to be done quickly. Committees are looking at this matter, but we cannot always wait for committees, knowing the burden of legislation with which the House is dealing. Therefore, I ask the House to adopt the clause. It would do a great deal to help to build up social responsibility in Scotland, and it would be of help to the children's hearings in carrying out the functions entrusted to them under the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968.

Mr. Robertson

It is rather strange that the incipient punitive tendencies of the SNP should emerge in a matter like this. The hon. Member might well have gone the whole hog and suggested the abolition of the children's panels. Whatever fancy words the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) may use, however he may dress up his proposed clause, what it means is the introduction of juvenile court measures, which have not worked.

Had the hon. Member come from one of the fancy areas on the West side of Glasgow, I should not have been surprised, but I understand that he had a practice in Paisley, and he must have heard of Ferguslie Park. Some community work is done there with graffiti. Usually the cleaning up is of Ferguslie Park and not the graffiti.

He cannot be serious in what he is suggesting. This is not the problem that the children's panels face. The resources have never been available for the Social Work (Scotland) Act to operate, and yet the hon. Member seems to be suggesting that we should scrap the Act. When we ask the obvious questions, the whole of the fairy tale breaks down and the argument becomes a nonsense.

What he meant came out later. He said that if this did not work, consideration could be given to more compulsory measures being used to enforce the fine or punishment or whatever is determined by the panel. The one naturally leads to the other. I should not have objected too much if he had said quite clearly that he did not believe that the methods of remedial and corrective treatment used by the children's panels were right, and that we should punish the children or the parents. Had he said that, I should have thought much more of him, or at least known where he stood. He is simply trying, as I see it, to get the best of both worlds.

The system is not working in Scotland. Certainly it is not working in Paisley. But, having said that, let us say why it is not working. There are no places in these schools. There is no other accommodation where children can be given corrective treatment. This is not to condemn the concept, but it is to say that we must have these facilities and resources. There are not enough social workers—and there are many reasons for that. In the Strathclyde area the pressures on the social work department are enormous, especially as a result of the reorganisation of local government, and we shall not succeed unless the Government are determined to see that the resources are made available. If that proves to be the case, we are talking now in a vacuum and there is no meaning behind our words.

I operated in juvenile courts as a magistrate knowing that what I did would not have much effect on the basic problem. The basic problem has to be solved by social workers, and in that description I include a whole range of other people in the community. It will not be solved by punishment. It will not be solved by putting people in gaol. We need a new approach, and the basis of that new approach is to be found in the Social Work (Scotland) Act. Any derogation from that destroys the whole concept.

Let us not despair. Let us put pressure on the Government for the resources that are required so that the policy may become meaningful.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

The hon. Gentleman is being a little harsh in his strictures. If, after all the protestation, the Government provide little or no additional money for the necessary background facilities, what does the hon. Gentleman suggest should be done?

Mr. Robertson

We must continue to apply the pressure. I do not know of any other remedy. That is the only way in which we have been able to get anything done in the past. But that is the remedy. The remedy is not to revert to what was there previously because it did not work.

To be fair, the hon. Member for Dundee, East has not suggested flogging, the whip or the hangman's rope, although it may be that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) will. But even those did not work. They did not reduce the incidence of delinquency. They did not reduce vandalism.

The Social Work (Scotland) Act was a serious attempt to come to grips with the problem. Unfortunately, the Act having been introduced by a Labour Government in 1968, we then had a Conservative Government who did not believe in it and who starved the service of the necessary resources. But I ask this Government to give it a chance as it was conceived and to give it the resources.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I was extremely interested to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Robertson), and he echoes the opinion of all of us in wishing that resources could be made available. It was a request made constantly during the Second Reading debate, and the Minister made it clear that, if a Children Bill were to be passed, other resources and back-up facilities would have to be provided.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) has moved what in my view is a valuable clause. His is not a heavy-handed approach. In some areas, and certainly in my own constituency, vandalism is a very serious problem. When the stage is reached where old ladies write to their Member of Parliament saying that they have had windows blown out by airguns and asking what is to be done, it becomes clear that some firm action must be taken.

This proposal appears to provide a subtle and simple approach. It allows a children's panel powers which may restrain a child from violence. If a panel can impose an order requiring a parent or guardian to pay damages for a child's act of vandalism, the parent or guardian will put pressure on that child not to commit illegal acts. What is more, if a parent or guardian has to put up security for the child's good behaviour, that parent or guardian has a vested interest in seeing that the child does not break the law. This might well produce quick results.

9.0 p.m.

Thirdly, if the panel can order unpaid community service, persons engaged in vandalism may well make restitution for their acts of vandalism. In a skyscraper in my constituency which houses 250 families there is graffiti scrawled on the walls from top to bottom. Residents dislike the graffiti intensely. Those responsible for the graffiti might perform a useful service to the community if they were told that they were required to remove the graffiti instead of going to a detention centre.

Rather than being too harsh on the hon. Member for Dundee, East, we should ask the Government to consider the clause favourably. I congratulate the hon. Member for Dundee, East on his ingenuity in introducing it, because a proposal such as this might well act as a deterrent and restrain youths from committing acts of vandalism.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Strangely, perhaps, on this occasion I do not share the strictures of the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) which have been expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Robertson). Nor do I share my hon. Friend's strictures about expenditure on social work. After allowing for inflation, expenditure on social work has grown at the rate of about 8 per cent. per annum. The Conservative Government of 1970 to 1974, who were responsible in large part for the implementation of the 1968 Act after the Labour Government left office in 1970, should not be decried for their efforts as regards social work.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East paid tribute to the original concept of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 and the establishment of children's hearings. The decision to abolish juvenile courts in Scotland was bold and imaginative. It was decided that in the case of juveniles the concept of crime and punishment was no longer to apply, that there was to be a recognition that what was necessary was not fines or probation as such but a tailoring of the treatment of the case to the needs of the individual within the family and home circumstances.

It is understandable that some people are impatient because there is no positive proof that the new system is operating effectively. Such people want to be able to say that since 1971, when the system of children's hearings began, there has been a reduction in vandalism and that fewer people are now referred to children's hearings than were referred to the juvenile courts.

The people who take that view do not realise, perhaps, that many children come before the children's hearings not because they have committed an offence or because they have been involved in antisocial behaviour but because they are in need of care and treatment which so far the community has been unable to provide.

I wish that someone would come forward with an easy, clear answer to the problem of recidivism and to anti-social behaviour such as vandalism, but there is no easy answer. All of us are worried about vandalism and about the fact that it is an offence which seems to be committed many times over by one youth.

However, paradoxically, there was much in what my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley said, namely, that the only way to ensure that someone will not commit an offence is to hang him. But there are few people who would argue that that penalty should be exacted even for the offence of murder.

In our society there is great compassion for children who live in difficult circumstances. Because of old slum conditions or arising from the new slums—multi-storey blocks, and so on—some children now find it difficult to come to terms with society. It is all too facile to say that the present system is all wrong and generally to rail against vandalism as though that can easily be cured.

Complaints about the operation of the children's hearings system centre on the shortage of approved schools. It is unfortunate that Parliament looks to local authorities to provide the whole answer. The responsibility for the provision of List D school places under the 1968 legislation is placed on local authorities. In spite of the growth of local authority expenditure, I shall act like Oliver Twist in asking for more funds.

Unfortunately, the local authorities have not responded by providing enough List D places. There is a shortage of such places. Behind the complaints about these schools there is a misconception in the mind of the public about the purpose of List D schools. A List D school is not a juvenile prison. Many people think that it is. We hear cries to the effect that we should take young persons out of society and lock them away for a period. People forget that the child must return to the community. We must seek a method by which children can be cared for and treated within the community. We must help them to overcome the handicaps of their background and the difficult circumstances in which they live.

The children's hearings occurred in an experimental situation, in which there were no guidelines to steer them along the way. Nowhere in the world is a system operated in this way. In the beginning reliance was placed on List D schools. People tended to regard the children's backgrounds as being so bad that the only solution was to be found in List D schools. I have listened in a private capacity to one or two children's hearings. Knowing the circumstances, I said to myself "Thank goodness I do not have to make a judgment in this case". It is very difficult to make judgments in such cases. It is easy to blame the tribunals. Although they rely too much on List D schools, I do not condemn them for that.

We must now look to intermediate treatment, in the sense of individual experimental schemes, to deal with the problem, without necessarily taking the children out of the community. Anyone interested in the problem should inspect Panmure House in Edinburgh. It is a kind of youth club. Important work is being carried out there to inspire confidence in the children. Many of these children, who are in trouble time and again, have no friends in society. Very often they have no friends in the home.

It is said that parents should be responsible for restitution for acts of vandalism and that they should put up a bond or make a payment. I shall not use the word "fines". The problem is that the parents of 99 out of 100 children in trouble do not give a damn. That is part of the reason why the children land in trouble. Perhaps payment by the parents would work in a minority of cases, but the system would not work in the majority of cases. I am not convinced that the principle of monetary payments or restitution by parents has yet been proved. The problem is being examined now by at least one committee. I am prepared to await the studies now being made before going further.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Will the hon. Gentleman say to which studies he refers?

Mr. Hughes

I refer to the working party set up under the auspices of the Scottish Office. The Minister will be able to give its title.

I have some sympathy with paragraph (d) of the new clause. Perhaps we should look at the question of social responsibility and social restitution, although I doubt whether those matters in themselves will change the troubles we appear to be facing. However, it may be helpful if we encourage such an approach.

My impression is that the clause may have some relevance in relation to Section 44 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 under which a child in need of compulsory measures of care may be required to submit to supervision in accordance with such conditions as a children's hearing may impose. Then subsection (8) provides that: A supervision requirement shall be in such form as the Secretary of State may prescribe. Perhaps something could be done administratively to encourage that aspect.

I hope that the clause will not be pressed to a Division. I believe that a period of four years is too short a time in which to come to conclusions about the success or failure of a process. Bold experiments are taking place in Scotland which may give a lead to many other parts of the United Kingdom, and indeed to Europe as a whole. It is a mistake to condemn the whole system because in certain cases there may have been failures. We need a longer period in which to examine the situation.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

The hon. Members for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) and Paisley (Mr. Robertson) appear to have worked on the simplest assumption—an assumption which I hope they will examine and reconsider—that penalties do not deter. Indeed, the hon. Member for Paisley referred to my views on capital punishment when dealing with the relevance or otherwise of deterrent penalties.

I hope that both hon. Gentlemen will examine an Answer that was given to me only last week by the Secretary of State for Scotland relating to convictions for murder before and after abolition. They will discover that in Scotland in not a single year in the 20-year period between 1945 and 1965 did convictions for murder amount to double figures. But they will also find that in not a single year since 1965 has the total been fewer than 20. We must remember that the 20-year period after the Second World War was a time of social breakdown, and yet I repeat that in that period the murder figure did not rise above 10.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Is not one of the reasons for the figures given by the hon. Gentleman that before abolition such charges did not involve murder but culpable homicide? Has he compared the total number of criminal deaths year by year rather than simply those connected with charges of murder? Indeed, will he tell the House the last time that there was a hanging for murder in Scotland, irrespective of the state of the law? I can tell him the name of that case if he wishes to know it. Does not that affect the hon. Gentleman's views on murder?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The situation is becoming difficult for the Chair. We are discussing not murder but the Children Bill. I hope that hon. Gentlemen will keep to that subject.

Mr. Taylor

I was trying to deal with the argument advanced by Labour Members that penalties do not deter. I was seeking to point out that there was ample evidence that they did deter. I was asking hon. Members to examine the Written Answer showing that the figures for culpable homicide moved in exactly the same way. I shall not dwell on that point. I ask the hon. Member for Paisley to examine the figures, to establish whether he is right in saying that there is no evidence that penalties deter. I believe that there is ample evidence.

9.15 p.m.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) has brought forward a moderate and sensible new clause that should command the support of all reasonable hon. Members. The hon. Member for Paisley astonished me when he said that the Social Work (Scotland) Act was not working. He said that we must wait until the resources were available. I was astonished by his compassion for youngsters in trouble, but I wonder whether he feels the same compassion for the victims suffering the consequences of vandalism. He has said that until resources are available, we shall not be able to do anything practical. However, there is no evidence that resources will be available. What is more important is that there is no evidence that even if resources were available the situation would improve.

First, let me deal with resources. There is a shortage of List D school places. It is interesting to note that since the introduction of the Act the shortage has become more acute. We have no idea of what is the real shortage of List D places, because, apart from the fact that there is a waiting list, it must be borne in mind that many panels have decided not to send children to List D schools because of the long waiting list. That will be within the knowledge of the hon. Member for Paisley and the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North.

Secondly, we must consider whether the provision of more cash would relieve the shortage of social workers. There is no evidence that the provision of cash would make good the deficiency in the number of social workers. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North was kind enough to refer to the good old days when the Conservatives were in power and when there was plenty of money. I can remember some happy and indeed some unhappy times when I was a Minister at the Scottish Office. I used to come here and constantly say to Labour Members that there was no shortage of cash for social work, that nothing was being held back because of a shortage of money. I know that there are conflicting views within the Conservative Party about whether we created the money in the right way, but there certainly was plenty of it. It was even suggested that perhaps the money was just printed. At any rate, I know that there was plenty of it at that time.

The jam in the provision of social workers appears to be the difficulty in finding field worker placements. A doctor has to do his practical work in a hospital. A social worker has to undertake a field work placement before becoming qualified. Because of the shortage of field workers, it is not possible to find sufficient field work placements. Even if hon. Gentlemen were successful in persuading their miserable Government colleagues to adopt the financial principles that the Conservatives adopted to ensure that there was plenty of cash, it would not solve the problem. It will be a long time before any progress can be made in this direction.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East asked what we should do in the interim if money was tight or if the availability of cash would not resolve the shortage of social workers. We cannot allow the upsurge of vandalism to continue because even if the hon. Member for Paisley will not accept it, I am sure that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McMillan) will accept that there are many people in his constituency, and mine, who are living a life of hell because of vandalism by youngsters and because of other anti-social behaviour by young people. First, we have a duty to deter youngsters from getting involved in antisocial acts. This is where the deterrent comes in. It is important to have a deterrent to warn young people against becoming involved in this kind of unhealthy anti-social activity.

Secondly, we need to reassure our police forces. Anyone who has had discussions with police officers in our cities, if not in other areas of Scotland, will accept that many of them are fed up to the teeth with the attitude of youngsters when apprehended if those youngsters are at the age which involves their going before a panel. I think that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in your constituency, and other hon. Members in their constituencies will know that the police are fed up to the teeth because they believe that it is a waste of time to apprehend youngsters who are guilty of offences of vandalism if they are of the age that means going before a panel. The panel does not strike fear into the hearts of youngsters who engage in anti-social activities. We need something that will strike a measure of fear into the hearts of those contemplating anti-social behaviour.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one deterrent would be a policeman on every street corner, or possibly a policeman on the beat? The hon. Gentleman said that the police were fed up. Will he give us a few examples? The hon. Gentleman once had a very close interest in acting for the police. Is he talking about police in motor cars or on the beat?

Mr. Taylor

I am talking about police in general. The hon. Lady is quite right. I had the pleasure of very close contact with the police when I was adviser to the Scottish Police Federation before the Conservatives got into power and things had to change. I keep in close touch with the police, as does the hon. Lady. It probably would be helpful to have a policeman on every street corner, but there is no point if youngsters who throw bricks through windows respond to police inquiries by saying "You can only send me to a panel". The hon. Lady will be aware that that is the attitude of many young people. I accept that it would be helpful to have more policemen on the beat, but, with the shortage of manpower, that is not possible. However, the police can and do perform a useful service.

Something must be done. I do not think that new Clause 28 provides the kind of answer I would prefer. The hon. Member for Dundee, East will be aware that I would go a lot further and that it would be successful. However, I accept that this would be a useful interim measure. It has the merit of probably commanding the support of a large number of hon. Members and people outside. Basically, the proposal is that a youngster coming before a panel would be given the option of doing some community service or of being sent to a List D school. That would be a useful step forward. It is a suggestion that should be tried.

One thing stands out a mile: it would be wrong and shameful to allow the present situation to continue for another five years. The indications are that the problem is getting worse. The public are losing confidence in the panels in their present form. Some action must be taken. This proposal is a useful step forward. I congratulate the hon. Member for Dundee, East and, if he takes his proposal to a Division, I shall certainly give it my support.

Mr. Dempsey

The problem that we are discussing is not new. If anything is wrong, it is the same phenomenon as has been wrong in the past—namely, that Acts of Parliament are passed without the necessary financial support to back them up. That is what is wrong now.

We have all had experience of dealing with young offenders, and several courses of action can be taken to deal with them. First, they can be allocated to List D schools. Secondly, they can be allocated to assessment centres. Thirdly, they can be sent home to be supervised by social workers.

Frankly, none of these three categories of action is possible. There is no room at List D schools for the next six months; there is no room at the assessment centre in Lanarkshire; and the social work director advises us that he has not sufficient social workers to supervise young offenders at home. Therefore, we are left with the old standby of sending young offenders to the police for a warning. Of course, some of these youngsters go to the police so often that they put their fingers to their noses at the uniform and do what they like.

This is the stage that we have reached, and I should like to draw attention to one aspect of the whole problem. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) that List D schools are not the answer. I say that because I have come across boys who have been expelled from List D schools, and they run around the streets carrying out acts of violence. I have taken this matter up and asked whether, after a panel, acting under the law has allocated a person to a List D school for treatment, the head of that school has authority to expel the individual who has been sent there for treatment, and I have been advised by the Secretary of State that the head of the establishment is within his rights to take that action. I know one offender who has been expelled from two List D schools. There is no use sending him to an institution of that type. He is already roaming the streets committing one foul act after another.

One of these individuals smashed up three houses in one day. I should like to hear my hon. Friend's views if he arrived home and found his wife in tears, his house broken into and smashed twice in one week. I am sure that he would be demanding stern action against the culprits who committed such an outrage against decent well-behaved members of the community.

What type of offences have we in mind when we talk about the new clause? I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson). He put forward a good case for his new clause, but the one fact that he overlooked is that many of the depredations are committed by young people under 10 years of age. One cannot give them useful community work to do at that age, and the problem is what to do with them.

A new primary school was virtually burned to the ground, resulting in a loss of £100,000, by three youths, the youngest of whom was nine. It is difficult to find an effective way of dealing with these individuals at that early age. Only recently a serious tragedy occurred when a young boy was carrying some glue. Another youth went by and set light to the glue, which spread over the hands of the boy who was carrying it and caused him considerable damage. What does one do to a person who commits a series of offences such as that? There is no List D accommodation. There is no assessment centre accommodation. There are no social workers to help. Is he to be sent back home? Is that the attitude that we are to adopt? What is wrong with our society today? The answer is that it is sick, and one reason for this is the lack of discipline. It is as well to face this problem, because we cannot allow the present situation to continue indefinitely.

I remember being called from an engagement one night to attend a panel hearing which had been suspended so that I could get there. We had before us a boy who had stolen 27 cars and at the age of 14 had been driving along the main thoroughfares of some of our towns. His relatives appealed to the panel "For God's sake take him away and put him in a place of safety somewhere". There was "no room at the inn", and that boy was sent back to the very relatives who were pleading for the panel to take him away.

9.30 p.m.

We cannot stand by in such a situation. That is only one of the many cases with which I could weary the House. We tried to have that boy placed in the only security institution in Scotland, at Montrose, but were told there was a six-month waiting list. Why should we introduce any legislation if we do not back it up financially?

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North told me when he was a Minister about the intermediate experiments. We have been conducting them in Coatbridge and Airdrie for a long time, but they are not the answer to the problem. We still have to send these children home. When they are convicted of serious offences, we take them to the local hills and show them Wallace's monument, or take them canoeing on Loch Lomond. They have committed outrages like cutting old people's telephone wires or putting smoke bombs through their letter boxes and setting their houses on fire.

This is no joke. It is a serious problem and we must decide how, when and where to introduce a deterrent. Altering the present law will mean legislation and take some time, but we could do much more. Could the new clause give any additional help or introduce new deterrents? Could it deal with these individuals more effectively? I am talking about people who habitually destroy property and attack others. It is dreadful to hear of an old person having been clubbed to the ground by hoodlums too young for the present law to deal with. It is a tragedy to let this state of affairs continue.

If we are to use the present Act, let us make it effective. I do not see how the new clause can operate without financial support. The present Act might work—although I have my doubts—with financial support. When one has to tell relatives who are pleading for a boy to be taken away that he must go home, when he then goes in the front door and out the back and commits another crime, there is something lacking in our society.

The authorities are doing all they can. In Coatbridge, we provide area policemen—that is, beat policemen—in the difficult areas. I wish they had police dogs with them as well. One sees at football matches what a deterrent to hoodlums a trained police dog is. It is tragic when business people virtually in tears report £1,000 worth of damage to their plate glass windows, yet when the police catch the culprits by excellent detection and take them to the children's hearing, nothing can be done with them. This is a serious problem which we ought to consider when examining this clause and the existing law.

I hope that we have said enough to make the Minister roll up his sleeves, go to the Chancellor and say, "Finance must be made available." We know that there is an inflation problem and that we are all out to save the pound. We also know that at the same time we are duty bound to make sure that the law should be given the opportunity to work. It never has been given the opportunity because it has not had the financial backing. I hope that as a result of this debate the finance will be forthcoming.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) has raised a wide point of principle with his new clause. It goes very much wider than matters dealing with children and concerns reparation of a type almost appropriate to a Criminal Justice Bill. The Government have rather laid themselves open to this type of proposal. The clause contains an important principle, which applies just as much to children as to other classes of offenders. It is important because it may help to bring about a greater degree of parental responsibility. The lack of such responsibility, at school and when children grow older, is one of the problems in our society. This reparation type of proposal helps to some extent because as a form of punishment—and we kid ourselves if we think that punishment is not important in this context—it could lead to a greater degree of understanding on the part of the child of the seriousness of the offence committed than do other types of punishment we sometimes think of.

I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes). There is a need for some form of intermediate treatment between the pat on the head and sending a child to a List D school. The type of project he mentioned, Panmure House in Edinburgh, is a good example. It may be a mistake to put List D schools under local authorities for finance purposes. Such schools have a difficult job. I have one in my constituency, Rossie School, which does a first-class job in very trying circumstances. I take this opportunity of commending the amount of good work which the staff does in difficult conditions.

There is a place for some form of intermediate treatment. I support the idea in principle. I was a leader of a youth club for over 10 years and in that capacity worked closely with the police. I know the kind of work that can be done when the police bring someone along who is in trouble. There is a problem of supervision. I am worried about legislating for this type of treatment in advance of making sure that there is proper supervision.

However, I fully support the principle of the proposal and I await with interest what the Minister will say. While the idea may be more appropriate to a Criminal Justice Bill, the Criminal Justice Act for England and Wales gave powers to the courts for reparation on an experimental basis, and I think that the experiment has worked out fairly well

If the Minister will not accept the spirit of the amendment, or say that it is a principle he is prepared to apply in Scotland, my hon. Friends and I would feel inclined to support the hon. Member for Dundee, East.

Mr. McElhone

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) and his hon. Friends for giving us the opportunity of an interesting and well-informed debate. If accepted, the clause would give the children's hearings three new powers. These would be the power to require restitution from parents or guardians; power to require parents to pay security for good behaviour, or caution, as it is known in Scots law; and power to require community service. Subsection (2A) requires the hearing to give the parent or guardian time to pay, but, if payment is not made, makes it clear that the hearing can vary the supervision requirement.

There are three parts to the clause—three new powers suggested for the hearings. They are not new thoughts, and they had had their obvious attractions in the past. But for one general and several particular reasons the clause cannot be accepted.

The main point is that these new powers are too important and their presentation is too final in form for them to be accepted, snap, at this last-gasp stage in the Bill. The disposals by children's hearings have not been under detailed consideration in the course of the Bill and they cannot be given proper consideration in the time left. The Secretary of State has already indicated that he proposes to consult about possible changes in the powers and procedures of children's hearings and of the courts in relation to procedures against children. A consultative memorandum may be issued very shortly. Any points that the memorandum does not endorse could readily be raised by others in the context of the consultative process and be given proper consideration there.

On the specific proposals, the Secretary of State's current view, as contained in a reply to a Parliamentary Question in July 1974, is that he would not seek to give children's hearings the power of restitution. Nor did the Kilbrandon Committee favour compulsory restitution, which it thought would not be likely to benefit the child or encourage the cooperation of the parents.

The clause seeks to empower the hearings to require restitution from parents or guardians. The general question of reparation by the offender to the victim in Scotland is under consideration by the Dunpark Committee. The committee, although primarily concerned with issues in the criminal courts, has received evidence from children's panels and others. It would be inappropriate to legislate in what is a difficult field without looking carefully at the considered views of the committee. The committee is expected to report in the course of 1976.

To a great extent the community service proposal in paragraph (d) links with what has just been said. Reparation can be not only financial payment of damages but practical restitution. Direct practical restitution is often a very effective disposal and is quite often, we understand, achieved under the present system, sometimes by tacit or explicit agreement of all the parties, sometimes by the attachment of conditions to a supervision requirement. Conditions could also be used for community service; but the situation is rather different from that of a short adult sentence of community service as a non-custodial disposal. If the social worker is to work with the child, he must have the possibility of working out an appropriate treatment programme after consideration. Questions of this kind and of who would organise and supervise the community service are the kind of things best considered once the Dunpark Committee has reported.

9.45 p.m.

Before concluding I should touch on the point raised by the hon. Member for Dundee, East regarding security for good behaviour. Security for good behaviour is a rather different point. It is certainly a point that we would expect to be raised

in the consultations we shall be having on possible changes in powers and procedures of the hearings; and that, in our view, is the right place to consider what would in theory at least be a substantial new power for the hearings involving financial powers and expanding their powers for the first time to include parents as well as children.

But whatever the outcome of the considerations we must not expect miracles from this kind of power. The courts have this power of caution and in relation to those children who came before the courts in 1973 it was used in only three cases out of 3,000.

In conclusion, this amendment is very relevant, but action should await the Dunpark Committee and detailed consideration of possible changes in the powers and procedures of children's hearings, about which we shall be consulting soon.

Therefore, I must resist the new clause.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I shall endeavour to be brief. What we have heard from the debate, which I shall not rehearse, is that there is worry and doubt about what is happening in relation to dealing with children's offences. There is a crisis. It has been admitted by many people who may not necessarily support the proposals that I have brought forward. The answer is resources, but when will they come? We may wait until Kingdom Come for them. Certainly there is no real prospect of resources being made available to deal with this problem in the foreseeable future. If cash restrictions are imposed upon local authorities—there are suggestions that they may be imposed—social work might be one of the first casualties.

With those views I ask the House to accept the new clause, because something must be done now. What we need is action now, rather than prevarication.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 147, Noes 160.

Division No. 370.] AYES [9.50 p.m.
Adley, Robert Banks, Robert Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)
Aitken, Jonathan Beith, A. J. Boyson, Or Rhodes (Brent)
Arnold, Tom Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Bradford, Rev Robert
Atkins. Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Boscawen, Hon Robert Brittan, Leon
Bain, Mrs Margaret Bottomley, Peter Brotherton, Michael
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Budgen, Nick James, David Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Bulmer, Esmond Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Royle, Sir Anthony
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Jopling, Michael Sainsbury, Tim
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Churchill, W. S. Kershaw, Anthony Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Kilfedder, James Shelton, William (Streatham)
Cockcroft, John King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Shepherd, Colin
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) King, Tom (Bridgwater) Sims, Roger
Costain, A. P. Knight, Mrs Jill Skeet, T. H. H.
Crawford, Douglas Knox, David Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Crowder, F. P. Latham, Michael (Melton) Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Le Marchant, Spencer Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Luce, Richard Sproat, Iain
Dunlop, John MacCormick, Iain Stanbrook, Ivor
Durant, Tony Macfarlane, Neil Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Madel, David Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Mates, Michael Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Fairgrieve, Russell Mather, Carol Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Fisher, Sir Nigel Mawby, Ray Stradling Thomas, J.
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Fookes, Miss Janet Meyer, Sir Anthony Tebbit, Norman
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Mills, Peter Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Goodhart, Philip Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Thomas, Rt. Hon P. (Hendon S)
Gorst, John Moate, Roger Thompson, George
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Montgomery, Fergus Trotter, Neville
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Moore, John (Croydon C) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Gray, Hamish Morgan, Geraint Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Grieve, Percy Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Wakeham, John
Grylls, Michael Mudd, David Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Neubert, Michael Watt, Hamish
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Newton, Tony Weatherill, Bernard
Hampson, Dr Keith Nott, John Welsh, Andrew
Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Onslow, Cranley Wiggin, Jerry
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Osborn, John Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Hastings, Stephen Page, John (Harrow West) Winterton, Nicholas
Havers, Sir Michael Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Hawkins, Paul Pattie, Geoffrey Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Hayhoe, Barney Penhaligon, David Younger, Hon George
Hooson, Emlyn Percival, Ian
Hordern, Peter Pink, R. Bonner
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Howells. Geraint (Cardigan) Reid, George Mrs. Winifred Ewing and
Hunt, John Renton. Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts) Mr. Douglas Henderson.
Hutchison, Michael Clark Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Allaun, Frank Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Anderson, Donald Dempsey, James Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Armstrong, Ernest Doig, Peter Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Dormand, J. D. Hunter, Adam
Atkinson, Norman Duffy, A. E. P. Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Dunnett, Jack Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Janner, Greville
Bates, Alf Eadie, Alex Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Bean, R. E. Edge, Geoff John, Brynmor
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Evans, John (Newton) Jones, Alec (Rhondda)
Boardman, H. Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Booth, Albert Faulds, Andrew Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Kaufman, Gerald
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Flannery, Martin Lamond, James
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Leadbitter, Ted
Buchan, Norman Ford, Ben Litterick, Tom
Buchanan, Richard Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Loyden, Eddie
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) George, Bruce Mabon, Dr J. Dickson
Campbell, Ian Gilbert, Dr John McCartney, Hugh
Carter-Jones, Lewis Ginsburg, David McElhone, Frank
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Gould, Bryan MacFarquhar, Roderick
Clemitson, Ivor Gourlay, Harry McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Grant, George (Morpeth) Mackenzie, Gregor
Cohen, Stanley Grant, John (Islington C) Mackintosh, John P.
Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen Grocott, Bruce McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Concannon, J. D. Hamilton, James (Bothwell) McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Conlan, Bernard Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Marks, Kenneth
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Harper, Joseph Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Corbett, Robin Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Hatton, Frank Millan, Bruce
Cryer, Bob Hayman, Mrs Helene Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)
Dalyell, Tam Heffer, Eric S. Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)
Deakins, Eric Hooley, Frank Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Huckfield, Les Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Newens, Stanley Sedgemore, Brian Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Noble, Mike Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Ward, Michael
Oakes, Gordon Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Watkins, David
O'Halloran, Michael Sillars, James Watkinson, John
Ovenden, John Skinner, Dennis Weitzman, David
Owen, Dr David Small, William White, Frank R. (Bury)
Palmer, Arthur Smith, John (N Lanarkshire) White, James (Pollok)
Park, George Spearing, Nigel Whitehead, Phillip
Pendry, Tom Spriggs, Leslie Whitlock, William
Prescott, John Stallard, A. W. Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham) Woodall, Alec
Robertson, John (Paisley) Swain, Thomas Woof, Robert
Roderick, Caerwyn Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Rodgers, George (Chorley) Thorne, Stan (Preston South) Young, David (Bolton E)
Rooker, J. W. Tierney, Sydney
Roper, John Tinn, James TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Rose, Paul B. Tomlinson, John Mr. Donald Coleman and
Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Urwin, T. W. Mr. David Stoddart.
Rowlands, Ted Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)

Question accordingly negatived.

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