Item 304a - Letter from Margery Fry to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

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PETH/1/304a

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Letter from Margery Fry to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

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  • 23 Nov. 1944 (Creation)

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48 Clarendon Road, London, W.11.—Urges him to support the demand for an inquiry into the conditions in remand homes, if the question is raised in Parliament.

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48 Clarendon Road, LONDON, W.11.
23rd November, 1944.

Dear Fred,

You will have seen accounts of the attack made by John Watson on the London Remand Homes. I did not feel I could join in this publicly, as I had not visited the temporary Home which is particularly in question, but it was more than a single case which prompted Watson.

So far as I know every single London Children’s Court Magistrate with whom I have worked or talked, has been for some time thoroughly unhappy about the condition of these Homes. The children are not kept clean. One little lad who came to me for a week was dressed in filthy underclothes. Whereas every prison in the country tries to send people to Court looking reasonably tidy, the children are allowed to appear week after week without any attempt being made to wash their clothes or tidy them up in the interval.

There are graver matters of unsatisfactory staff, and of the failure to provide sufficiently classified accommodation for children ranging from little unfortunates, whose only “offence” is their need of care or protection, to the really toughest specimens (and some of them are quite tough) of the London slums.

To my knowledge private attempts to move the L.C.C. have been made again and again by Magistrates who are members of that body, but nothing drastic has been done.

The reason I am now writing to you about this question is that there is a possibility of its being raised in the House next Monday. There seems to be some fear that the issue may be treated on lines of party politics as a Tory attack on a Labour administration. It would be a thousand pities if Labour were not in the forefront in trying to obtain better conditions for these children, almost all of the poorer classes.

An enquiry into the London Homes would not only almost certainly lead to their being improved, but would have useful repercussions on Remand Homes throughout the country.

Actually, the arrangements for remand are one of the weakest links in our defence against Juvenile Delinquency. I do not mind going further and saying that they are probably in some cases actually leading to delinquency. Magistrates are frequently obliged to use the Remand Home, often very much against their will, either because there are no suitable home conditions, or because it is the one way of getting medical and psychological reports made. Moreover, when a child is being sent to an Approved School it is wiser not to send it home while waiting (one does not use a school where another course is possible) and with the present shortage of Approved Schools its stay in the Remand Home may run to many months. Harm may be done during this time, which the Approved School can hardly hope to remedy.

Can you do anything if the question is raised in Parliament to ensure that the demand for an enquiry shall receive Labour support?

Yours sincerely,
[Signed] Margery Fry
Margery Fry

Rt. Hon. F. Pethick Lawrence, M.P.,
House of Commons,
S.W.1.

c.c. to Peaslake, Nr. Guildford.

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