HC Deb 04 August 1840 vol 55 cc1258-60

On the motion that the report on the Infant Felons Bill be received,

Mr. Ewart

opposed the motion. The object of this bill was, to transfer from the hands of parents to the care of a benevolent society, children who should have been convicted of crime. The bill provided, that the transfer should take place under the sanction of the Lord Chancellor; but he did not consider this a sufficient safeguard. If such a proceeding were adopted at all, it ought to be done with the sanction, and upon the responsibility of the Secretary for the Home Department; in which case that House might, by asking questions or otherwise, interpose a useful check upon the proceedings of the society.

Sir C. Burrell

said, that the children of vicious parents would be greatly benefitted, if not altogether saved, by means of such a bill as the present, which he thought would improve the morality of the country.

Mr. Langdale

said, that the operation of the bill was not confined to the children of vicious parents, but might be made to apply to the children of honest and industrious parents. They legislated in that House very differently for the rich and for the poor. What, however, he objected to in this bill was, that it afforded no protection for the religious education of the children, but, on the contrary, he feared that it would be made an instrument of proselytism. He should certainly oppose the bill by every means in his power.

Mr. Hawes

said, that before this bill could come into operation, the civil rights of the infant must be forfeited by a conviction, and the court might extend that forfeiture to parental control. There was no novelty in the present measure. Several charitable institutions, by the common consent, and for the benefit of society, were, without the sanction of law, doing what this bill proposed to give the sanction of law to. It was rather too late, therefore, to raise an unfounded prejudice against this individual measure—a measure which was founded upon the whole of our penal discipline. He denied that j that this bill made the slightest distinction between the children of the rich and of the poor, and he must say, that he was surprised to hear hon. Gentlemen express such great alarm at this measure.

Mr. Estcourt

said, that the bill might operate cruelly to both parents and children in certain cases. He objected to power being given to the Lord Chancellor, or any other authority, to deprive parents of the care of their children without their own consent.

Sir C. Grey

said, that some objections to the meaaure might be got rid of, if the judge who should try the child should have power to order that, after the period of confinement, the child should, for a certain period, be placed under the care of this society. For his own part, however, he must say that he would prefer an enquiry before the Lord Chancellor; but he thought it desirable to introduce a clause into the bill to prevent these children from being subtracted from the jurisdiction of the Lord Chancellor without special notice and application.

Mr. Briscoe

hoped that the bill would be allowed to stand over to the next Session of Parliament, because he thought that it must be admitted, that it was not in a fit condition to be adopted. The bill was so opposed in every respect to justice and humanity, that he should feel it his duty to join the hon. Member for Knares-borough to offer every opposition to it in his power.

Mr. Fox Maule

said, he should throw the responsibility of rejecting the bill upon the House, because he conceived that this, above all other measures which had ever been introduced with the same object, was calculated to produce benefit to the poorer classes. He was ready to assent to the amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tynemouth.

Lord Granville Somerset

was of opinion that this bill was calculated to carry the principle of punishment beyond that point which was contemplated by the law. He conceived that great injustice would be done to poor persons living in distant districts, who would have no means of resisting any steps which were taken to put its enactments into operation.

The House divided: Ayes 40; Noes 5; Majority 35.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Muntz, G. F.
Ashley, Lord Muskett, G. A.
Bellew, R. M. Oswald, J.
Berkeley, hon. H. Parker, J.
Brotherton, J. Pattison, J.
Burrell, Sir C. Philips, M.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Protheroe, E.
Easthope, J. Rutherfurd, rt. hn. A.
Eliot, Lord Seymour, Lord
Euston, Earl of Smith, B.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Somers, J. P.
Fitzroy, Lord C. Stewart, J.
Gordon, R. Stock, Dr.
Harcourt, G. G. Style, Sir C.
Hector, C. J. Thornely, T.
Hindley, C. Warburton, H.
Hoskins, K. Wood, B.
Hume, J. Yates, J. A.
Labouchere, rt. hn. H
Lushington, rt. hn. S. TELLERS.
Lynch, A. H. Maule, hon. F.
Morris, D. Shell, rt. hn. R. L.
List of the NOES.
Estcourt, T. Somerset, Lord G.
Ewart, W. TELLERS.
Irton, S. Briscoe, J.
Lowther, J. H. Langdale, hon. C.

Report received.