I thank you,. Mr. Speaker, for giving me the opportunity of informing the House of the action which has been taken as a result of the Committee of Inquiry into the conduct of the Standon Farm Approved School. I am' sure that the House will join with me in-thanking the authors of the report, the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) and my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Corlett), for the careful and helpful manner in which they have discharged the task which they undertook at my request. I have already communicated the report to the managers and headmaster of the school. The managers have given notice of then-intention to surrender the school's certificate of approval, notice of termination of his appointment has been given to the headmaster, and the boys in the school are being dispersed. A copy of the report is being sent to the managers of every approved school; and the representative organisations of managers, headmasters and headmistresses of approved schools have been requested to consult with the Children's Department of the Home Office on those recommendations which affect the schools generally.
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that this report reveals that the boys at this school were subjected to harsh and depressing discipline, and in view of the provocation which they received, will he reconsider the sentences passed on four boys who were convicted at Staffordshire Assizes?
I think the condition of affairs at this school was well revealed by the report and the comments made by our two colleagues who conducted the inquiry. I do not think that, at this stage, it would be possible to review the sentences which were passed on a limited number of boys who were convicted of a murder which was premeditated, and which involved the loss of life of a completely innocent party.
Has the right hon. Gentleman any reason to think that this was an isolated case?
I think the report of our colleagues who investigated other schools is reassuring on that point.
Can the right hon. 'Gentleman say whether, in future, his officers' supervision of these schools will be improved? I think he will agree that to some extent there was laxity on the part of the central authority inspecting schools.
I have taken steps to increase the number of inspectors for this work, and I am considering what revised instructions should be given to them.