§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
My Lords, after the intensely interesting and important discussion of the last three hours. I need occupy only a very few minutes in moving 580 the Second Reading of this Bill. It is a Bill that has been passed through another place unanimously. It was there introduced by a private Member, Mr. Norman Cole, the Member of Parliament for South Bedfordshire. He has asked me to take charge of the Bill in this House, which I gladly do. It is a measure which I think your Lordships will be glad to see put on the Statute Book. It has the warm support of the Home Office. It has been framed after consultation with the Magistrates' Association and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
The object of the Bill, in a sentence, is this. It is to make certain amendments which have proved to be needed in the principal Act, the Children and Young Persons Act of 1933. As your Lordships know, the Home Office is the Department specially charged with that part of our administration and application of the law concerned with the protection of children and young persons, with the juvenile courts and with a great deal of other machinery. It has been found that, in the respects dealt with in this Bill, a number of changes, none of them of very great significance but each of them of some importance, should be made. At this hour, I do not think I need ask your Lordships to go with me through the clauses of the Bill beyond making that general statement. Indeed, in another place the Bill was carried on Second Reading without any discussion at all.
May I just give one illustration? If your Lordships take, for example, Clause 1, you will see that it makes a very useful modification. There are cases, of course, in which parents or guardians may act so badly in relation to the child under their care as to render themselves liable, on sufficient evidence, to be charged with wilful neglect. But there are quite a number of other cases in which it would be too much to accuse the parent or guardian of wilful neglect of the child. Yet it is very necessary that something should be done above what can be done at present, through the juvenile court, to protect a child from ill-treatment or neglect. Clause 1 provides an amendment of that sort, and ensures that in a proper case such a child will come before the juvenile court, which will then consider the evidence and, in case of need, 581 will make an order for the child's future care—very likely putting it in a different place, under a foster parent or in some home.
In the same way, Clause 2 gets rid of what has been rather a doubt—namely, whether, if the local authority has brought to its attention a complaint that a child has been so treated as to be in need of care or protection, the local authority has a positive duty to investigate the case and then, if it comes to the conclusion that the child ought to be brought before the juvenile court, to take steps to do that. Similar remarks apply to the clauses which follow.
As a practical matter, and at this hour, after the debate we have already had, I think the best course for me is to invite your Lordships to give this Bill a Second Reading to-day. Then, on the Committee stage, no doubt it will be my duty to explain briefly the provisions made in each of the important clauses. I think your Lordships will find that that will result in general approval of the scheme of the Bill, which your Lordships will be very glad to pass into law. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Simon.)
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I rise only to say that we give our hearty support to this Bill, and we hope that it will have a speedy passage into law.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD SIMONDS)
My Lords, as this is a Private Member's Bill, perhaps I should say on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that we also give a hearty welcome to the Bill and are grateful to the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, for bringing it before the House.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.