HC Deb 05 April 1854 vol 132 cc443-53

Order for Second Reading read.


said, that in moving that the Middlesex Industrial Schools Bill be read a second time, he would content himself with stating that the second reading had the cordial concurrence of his noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Lord Palmerston).

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


said, he felt it his duty to oppose the Bill, and should move, as an Amendment, that it be read a second time that day six months. He was ready to acknowledge the benevolent intentions of the promoters of the measure, and it was undoubtedly most desirable that juvenile criminals should be placed in reformatory establishments. But he must complain, however, that this Bill would enable the county magistrates, over whose appointment the ratepayers had no control, to send young criminals to certain industrial schools, which were to be erected and maintained at the expense of the county, and thereby materially increase the burden of the county rate. He believed that if the persons who exercised this power were elected by the ratepayers there would be no objection to the measure, but the county magistrates were quite irresponsible and entirely unaccountable to those with whose money the present Bill would enable them to deal. The Bill also would increase the power of the bishop of the diocese, for it would enable him to appoint a chaplain to the school, who would be removable at the will and pleasure of the bishop, but whose salary would be paid by the ratepayers. It was further provided by the Bill that, when any child or young person was placed in the reformatory schools, such child should be maintained at the expense of the parish of his or her settlement, a provision which, in his (Lord D. Stuart's) opinion, was very objectionable. He considered that some general measure should be adopted with regard to the treatment of juvenile criminals, and he believed that a Bill which gave the power of managing industrial schools to persons who were responsible to the ratepayers would not meet with any opposition. He could not, however, consent to a measure which would place such enormous powers in the hands of the unpaid magistracy.


said, he would second the Amendment, but for very different reasons to those put forward by the noble Lord. He opposed the Bill on the ground of objections of a very special character. He considered that it recognised a principle directly contrary to that assented to by the noble Lord the Secretary of the Home Department in respect to the propriety of allowing criminals, on entering the county and Government prisons, to be registered according to their particular religious belief, and to be placed under the care of chaplains of their own religious persuasion. He was therefore surprised to hear that the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had assented to the principle of this measure. This Bill proceeded upon the supposition that all the criminals to be placed in those schools would be Protestants of the Church of England, and it did not provide for the appointment of any other chaplains than those who professed the religion of the Established Church. Now the noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department had already admitted that that was an unjust principle, and therefore the Bill was altogether inconsistent with the understanding that such an admission conveyed.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, that the principle of the Bill was one of the greatest importance, and was universally acknowledged. Every one who had had experience in the administration of criminal justice must feel that the evil which this measure proposed to remedy was a most pressing one. Great alterations might, no doubt, be necessary to be made in the details of the Bill, but as he believed that they were all agreed as to its principle, he hoped that the House would at once assent to the second reading, and then refer it to a Committee, with a view to the removal of those objections to the details which might be urged against them. Although he concurred with the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord D. Stuart) that there should be a general measure upon this subject introduced by the Government, he yet thought that this was a case of the strongest nature to warrant an exception to such a proceeding. The Bill would embrace in its provisions a very large area, which was full of the evils it was now proposed to remedy. He trusted that one of the earliest pieces of legislation they would have would be the introduction of a general Bill of the Government to remedy those general evils.


said, he quite agreed that the object of the Bill was good, but he thought there was some force in the objection of the noble Member for Marylebone—that those persons who were required to support the proposed schools would have no control over the magistrates by whom they would be managed, and by whom the funds would be administered. He might observe that the 44th clause of the Bill enacted that every child sent to the industrial schools should be chargeable to the parish in which he or she was last legally settled; and it appeared to him that this provision would clash with the principle of the Settlement and Removal Bill now before the House, which was intended to abolish settlements altogether.


said, the objection taken by the hon. Member related to a matter of very inferior detail, and the opposition to the measure was based on a total ignorance not only of the Bill, but of the difference between principle and detail abstractedly. If the hon. Gentleman would consider the importance of dealing with juvenile offenders who had fallen into crime, he would rise above the discussion of petty details. To deal with children between the years of eight and fourteen in the same way as adult criminals were treated, by imprisonment and coercion, was altogether a solecism. It was a system which was not only not calculated to meet its object, but to ruin the whole country. This was almost the only country in the civilised world in which the necessity of dealing in a different manner with youthful and adult criminals had not been recognised. That principle had been fully recognised in Scotland, where reformatory institutions had been established by voluntary and private contributions, and where, in the city of Glasgow, a local rate was imposed for that purpose, under the authority of an Act of the Imperial Parliament. The noble Member for Marylebone had opposed this Bill on the ground that it would charge the maintenance of the children admitted into industrial schools upon the parishes of their settlement, while there was a Bill before the House which proposed to abolish settlements altogether. He (Mr. Adderley) did not think, however, that it was by any means clear that that Bill would pass during the present Session. He could not see how the great principle of local self-government would be affected by this Bill. He believed the noble Lord meant to say the principle of representation. But the representative principle and that of local government were not the same. He believed that the principle of local self-government would not be at all touched by the Bill; but if the noble Lord could show him that that would be the case, he would go along with the noble Lord in remedying that defect in Committee. He fully concurred in the objection that a general measure ought to be introduced on the subject, and could not acquit the Government of not having fulfilled their promise to introduce such a measure. One- third of the juvenile criminals in the kingdom were to be found in Middlesex; and therefore this measure would be applicable to one-third of England. That, certainly, was a very important step in the right direction, and he should support the Bill by every means in his power, not, however, releasing the Government from their promise. During the recess many very large meetings had been held to consider this question, and one of the most important deputations that ever waited upon the noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department went away in the greatest possible state of exhilaration at the promise of the noble Lord to take up the matter and pass a Bill during the present Session. So strong was that impression that the parties broke up their organisation, trusting entirely to the promise of the noble Lord. They had been much disappointed at the non-appearance of any such measure, particularly as they were themselves prepared with one. When Parliament was willing to pass such a measure, the Government could only be released from such a promise by their being unable to fulfil it. He trusted, at all events, that the present measure would be pressed forward, even if a larger one could not be obtained.


said, he was also in favour of the principle of such a Bill, and of the Government introducing a general measure on the subject. The House was now discussing a question of the deepest importance without the presence of a single Minister. He called upon the Government to fulfil the pledge which they gave, but there was no one Minister in attendance to answer him. He concurred in the objection of the noble Lord (Lord D. Stuart), that this measure had too much the character of a private and local Bill, when it ought to be a public one. It ought not to have the character of a private Bill. He saw with delight the proceedings that took place at Birmingham upon this subject, and he only wished he could have been there himself to support them. No one objected to the principle of this Bill; but the evil being universal, the remedy should be general. He considered that the objections taken to the measure by the noble Lord who moved the Amendment were valid ones. All the parishes in the county of Middlesex, with the exception of five, were prepared to carry out its principle, but what they objected to was, the means by which it was proposed to carry it out. He was almost disposed to recommend the adjournment of the debate until some Members of the Government were present. He would, however, advise his noble Friend to allow the Bill to go into Committee, when the Government would perhaps see that it was their duty to take up this question themselves.


said, he hoped the noble Lord would not withdraw his Amendment. In his opinion there were too many Bills introduced into that House as private Bills which were really of a public character, and that it would be advisable to appoint a Committee for the purpose of inquiring into the practice. In this description the present Bill seemed to be included; and he did not see how Members of the Catholic religion could assent to the measure, because of the principle which was involved in the 42nd clause. Should they allow the Bill to go into Committee they would in effect sanction the negation of the principle laid down by the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), that Catholic children should be entered as Catholics.


said, he was not opposed to the principle of the Bill, but, as he thought it was not becoming the dignity or the wisdom of that House to establish such a principle in a private Bill when none of the Ministers were present to discuss it, he should support the Amendment. In giving an industrial training to juvenile criminals there would be great danger that you might expose the poor man with a large family, belonging to the class next to that which supplied the criminals, to great temptation, since, by sending them into the streets to commit some small offence, he could get them provided for for life. This was a danger which ought to he very carefully guarded against.


said, he must confess that he was at an utter loss to understand the force of the various objections that had been urged against the measure. One hon. Member objected that, while the Bill was in reality a public Bill, it was to be discussed as a private Bill. But what did that objection amount to? Was it not proposed to send the Bill before a Select Committee; and were not private Bills which were so treated much more completely discussed than public Bills that were not sent to a Committee? Another hon. Member said there was no provision made in the Bill for supplying Roman Catholic children with religious instruction in their own faith. Now, whenever a Bill was brought in respecting education, he was sure to hear something about religion introduced. If the Roman Catholics had a right to a distinct measure for themselves, why not the Mormonites? Then came the objection, that no provision was made for enabling these juvenile criminals to attain a status, and provide for themselves in future. But that was most absurd. The fact was, that the objections were not in reality directed against the Bill; they arose from a totally distinct source. It was a constant craving for power—power on the part of Roman Catholics—power on the part of Dissenters—power on the part of the Established Church. It was not an objection to education, to the Bill, or to the form in which the Bill was introduced; but an objection to the powers which it conferred. And what were they? Powers were given to certain persons to provide education for the juvenile criminal population of Middlesex. These, an hon. Gentleman said, amounted to one-third of the whole juvenile criminal population of the country; and surely that alone was a good and sufficient reason for passing the Bill. If they could carry a measure that would include such a vast portion of the criminal population of this country, for God's sake let them do so—the sooner the better. As to there being no Minister present on the Treasury bench, as far as he (Mr. Roebuck) was concerned it was a matter of perfect indifference whether that was so or not. If they could do good by passing a Bill of this sort without their assistance, by all means let them do so. If the Bill accomplished the ends it aimed at, it would undoubtedly deserve the benediction of the community.


said, he thought the facts that had been stated in the course of the debate conclusively proved that there were the strongest possible grounds for dealing with the Bill as a private Bill. The Bill proceeded with cautious and safe steps, and, in his opinion, deserved the support of the House. One of the objections urged to it was, that parents would be induced to encourage their children in committing crime, with the view of getting them taken care of in the proposed institution. But, on looking at the provisions of the Bill, he observed that the county authorities would have power, in the first instance, to resort to the parochial authorities, and that the parochial authorities would in their turn have power to resort to the parents, and compel them to pay the expenses incurred where they were in a position to do so. Another objection struck him as being of a most extraordinary nature. It was that the Bill did not proceed with sufficient care to provide instruction for criminals of different religions. But what did that amount to? A child might by accident be a Roman Catholic; but in all human probability the great majority of juvenile criminals were of no religion at all. And because the hon. Member who raised this objection could not secure to them instruction in some particular creed, he would leave one-third of the whole juvenile criminal population of the country to be brought up as heathens. The measure was also to be opposed, he understood, on the ground of the power it placed in the hands of the existing magistracy—and every obstacle was to be interposed to its passing until the establishment of county financial boards. Why, they might as well shut up all the prisons at once as attempt to carry out that threat. It would be just as logical to say that a prison should not be enlarged, or an additional cell constructed, because there were no county financial boards in existence to superintend the expenditure. The argument had no force in it whatever. In point of fact, the proposed institutions were meant to be a kind of reformatory schools, at the same time that they were direct appendages to a prison. Instead of sending an unfortunate child for twelve or eighteen months to a prison, where, by association with older and more hardened offenders, he became increasingly depraved and confirmed in his vicious career, the Bill proposed a more humane course, and, regarding him in the light of one who was scarcely at an age to be responsible for his actions, put him in a better atmosphere, where his moral culture would be attended to, and steps taken to render him in after-life a good citizen and subject.


said, he thought that the only objection to the second reading of this Bill which had any weight was that founded on its being a private Bill when it ought to be a public one. He was disposed to allow a good deal of weight to that objection, but it would not be sufficient to deter him from voting for the second reading of it. He found by a paper which had been circulated that morning by the promoters of the Bill, that they did not ask leave to introduce this Bill until they had ascertained that there was no prospect at present of a general Bill being introduced by the Government. Until he heard the speech of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Adderley) he was not aware of the pledge given at the end of the last Session, that a general Bill should be introduced; but as such was the case, he should be glad to vote for the second reading of this Bill, although he thought that it contained provisions which rendered it undesirable that it should follow the ordinary course of private Bills. It was true, as had been stated by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), that in some cases private Bills were more carefully scrutinised by a Select Committee than were public ones by the whole House. That observation would, however, only apply to Bills which were opposed; and though this Bill might be opposed, it would be opposed by the ratepayers, who would object to the Bill altogether, on the ground of expense, but who would not examine the provisions of the Bill affecting questions of general policy, and affecting a very large portion of the population of this country. He would, therefore, suggest, either that the Bill should, after passing the Select Committee, be passed through a Committee of the whole House; or that the Select Committee should be specially constituted for the purpose of securing a full and fair consideration of the provisions of the Bill—of such provisions, especially, as those which gave power to justices, upon summary conviction or otherwise, to send children to these reformatory schools, which would be of an essentially penal character, for a period not exceeding three years, and which empowered the managers of the school to discharge a child without any reference to the Judge by whom it had been sentenced. The objections of the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Lucas) might be proper to be considered by the Committee, but if the House were to entertain such objections as reasons why a Bill should not be read a second time, no Bill of any importance would ever be so read. Another objection which had been raised to this Bill was the want of a representative system. The promoters were, however, bound to make use of the existing machinery, and he did not see that the passing of this Bill, giving additional power to magistrates analogous to the powers they already exercised on behalf of the ratepayers, would in any degree prejudice the consideration of that measure which the House had received a distinct assurance from the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department he in- tended to submit for their consideration very shortly after Easter.


said, he hoped the second reading of the Bill would be agreed to. The county of Middlesex had sent a deputation to the Home Office in its favour; and the towns of Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, and other large communities, had held public meetings, at which resolutions were unanimously adopted for petitioning Parliament to the same effect. But now that a measure—not indeed embracing the whole country, but still a very considerable portion of the population of the country—was brought before the House, he grieved to see it opposed upon grounds to which he could attach no weight whatever, considering the great principle which was involved in the Bill. Two points had struck him, which had not yet been noticed in the course of the discussion. He understood the noble Lord who had moved the Amendment to object to proceeding with the Bill upon economical grounds. Now, he (Mr. Liddell) would take the liberty of reminding the House that there was nothing so costly as crime, and that even in an economical point of view, if they could succeed in reforming these juvenile offenders, they would thereby save a considerable expenditure for their future maintenance and existence. The other point to which he would advert was this. The House would remember that the sentence of transportation, as a secondary punishment, had been discontinued. We could now no longer send our criminals out of the country. They must remain here in confinement in some place or other, and when the term of their imprisonment expired, we ran the risk of turning them upon the country to renew their dishonest modes of living. Unless, therefore, we took some such step as the one proposed for reforming juvenile criminals, the country would be exposed to the invasion, in the course of a few years, of a mass of crime that it could not by possibility know how to dispose of. This, he thought, was an additional reason why the House should read the Bill a second time without further delay, and send it to a Select Committee, where it might undergo such amendments as would render it, in all respects, fitted for the object it proposed to effect.


said, he should support the Bill, which he did not believe would have the effect of increasing the expenditure of the counties. The expense of maintaining these reformatory schools would, in fact, be in substitution of the cost which was now incurred in the maintenance of prisons. The probability was, therefore, that the measure would not increase the amount of the rates paid by the county of Middlesex. He would suggest to his noble Friend (Lord D. Stuart), considering the very general accordance in the principle of the measure, that he should withdraw his Amendment.


said, that after the expression of opinion on the part of his hon. Friend (Sir W. Clay), added to that of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), and the general feeling of the House upon the subject, he would not further occupy the time of the House, but at once ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2°, and committed to a Select Committee.

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