Mods and Rockers an urgent priority for MPs

Mods in Brighton, Easter 1966. Photograph: David McEnery

Parliament moves to combat teenage hooliganism at seaside resorts before August Bank Holiday.

The Guardian

Mr Brooke is determined to get his Bill imposing stiffer penalties for hooliganism on to the statute book by the August Bank Holiday, which is ton-up speed as legislation goes. Some of the MPs who heard him emphasise this in the Commons yesterday looked duly impressed.

But not Sir William Teeling, the member for the Pavilion division of Brighton and, naturally, a fellow Conservative. Five weeks flat from second reading to royal assent is not fast enough for Sir William, who feared the Mods and Rockers would be beating the book and the Brooke pouring into the seaside resorts in June and July, and having a final fling or two at the old prices.

We could do things fast enough in war time and what was this but a sort of war. This seemed to be over sensationalising things a bit, even more than the naughty newspapers have been accused on all sides of doing.

Sir William apart, Mr Brooke had a fairly clear run. The Opposition supported his plans for stepping up the power of magistrates to impose both fines and compensation of up to £100. It meant that the pockets of these “young fools” would be at risk to the tune of £200, Mr Brooke said. That would make them think. It might even make their parents think, too. And in case they feel impelled to climb into their leathers and act as Sir William evidently fears they may, Mr Brooke warned them that the police have their plans ready.

Apart from this touch of toughness Mr Brooke’s speech was almost pure sermon. He was full of understanding for the strains and temptations of the young, convinced that condemnation is not enough, and insistent on the responsibility of parents and of us all. We have to change the image of the society these young people are growing up in.

As he made this point it was possible to reflect how the Home Secretary’s own image has been changing in the public eye and the public prints, so that one popular newspaper could even produce a huge headline the other day saying “Thank God for Henry Brooke.” Miss Alice Bacon thought this was going a little far.

In spite of the general accord with what he called his “short and simple measure” this debate – like the public debate which preceded it and which will go on long after August Bank Holiday – brought out some of the disagreement that exists about remedies. Beating, borstal, prison, longer probation, training centres, Army options, not to mention the confiscation of motor-cycles, have all been advocated.

Mr Brooke came down strongly against beating, and so did Miss Bacon on the Labour front bench. Her view was that if we are so misguided or so desperate as to go back to flogging or birching, these may well be taken up by the victims as status symbols. She derived some encouragement from the beat groups, on the indisputable ground that thumping guitars is a preferable activity to thumping old ladies.


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