HC Deb 07 July 1854 vol 134 cc1366-77

Order read, for resuming adjourned Debate on Question [4th July], "That the Amendments made by the Lords to the Middlesex Industrial Schools Bill be now taken into Consideration."

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.


said, he rose to move that the Lords' Amendments to this Bill be taken into consideration on that day three mouths. When this Bill came before the House for a second reading, he moved that it be read a second time that day six months, inasmuch as he had serious objections to the measure. He, however, consented to withdraw his Amendment, inasmuch as it was generally agreed that they should go into Committee upon the Bill with a view of remedying the many defects he observed in the measure. This House having agreed to certain amendments in the Bill, it was passed in an improved state. The Lords, however, had struck out all those amendments. He, therefore, thought that he was only acting consistently in moving his present Amendment. He thought that this was a species of special and exceptional legislation, whereas it was his opinion that those matters should be regulated by a general Bill; and a general Bill had been introduced on the subject by the Government, which had been passed last night through Committee. If, therefore, they passed the present Bill, together with the Government Bill, they would have two principles recognised in regard to the same criminal offenders. In one case the criminal offenders would be subject to punishment first, and would be then placed in reformatory schools. That was the Government scheme. In the present measure the punishment would be dispensed with in respect to the same offenders, who would be placed in reformatory institutions. The principal objection which he had to the Lords' Amendments was that in relation to Clause 29, page 13, which would completely neutralise the intentions of that House. The Amendment of that House was to give power to the ministers of other religions, beside that of the State, to visit juvenile offenders of their own religious persuasion, to afford them every consolation in their power, and to celebrate divine worship in those schools. Those visits were, however, to be made under certain regulations. By the Lords' Amendment no minister could visit those places unless at the special request of the juvenile offenders or of their parents. That was a most important alteration, and one which he considered most objectionable. He thought that one of the most useful functions of a minister of religion was, not to wait for a special request, but to go to those haunts of crime and misery, and to tender to the unfortunate inmates the consolations of religion. He thought it was the height of illiberality to introduce enactments which would practically deprive all unfortunate persons professing other religions than that of the State of receiving the benefits of their own particular clergy. He also objected to another Amendment of the House of Lords, which was to give power to the bishop to appoint or withdraw the chaplains of those institutions at their pleasure. Their Lordships had also struck out the clause relating to the keeping of a register, for which he could conceive no reason, except that if it should appear that there was in any prison a large proportion of children not belonging to the Established Church, the public might complain of the injustice of preventing so large a number of prisoners from receiving the visits of a minister of their own denomination, and having divine service celebrated according to their own faith. He regarded the omission of this clause as a part of the system which had led to the other alteration to which he had referred. He believed that the Government took the same view of the question as he did.


seconded the Amendment.

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

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


said, he believed that the Bill, as amended by the House of Lords, was a most desirable measure, and had received the concurrence of the great majority of the magistrates and of the ratepayers. He hoped that the House would not be induced to take a course that would be fatal to the Bill, merely because the House of Lords refused to sanction the in- troduction of a new principle into our public institutions. According to the practice of our law any prisoner who dissented from the Church of England might claim access for the minister of his own persuasion. That point was freely granted as a concession to the religious opinions of prisoners or of juvenile offenders. Well, that same principle was preserved in this Bill. But the House of Lords had very properly rejected the new principle, that any person who shall declare himself to be a minister of a particular denomination—without being called upon to give any proof of his being really so—shall at once have free access to those schools. Such a power as that would lead to the greatest possible confusion. Before they adopted such a rule as that, they should have a registry of the ministers of the various religious denominations, so as to secure identity. He did not suppose that the House was desirous that Cardinal Wiseman should have a right by law to authorise any clergyman, by the mere virtue of his office, to enter those establishments. To such a principle he hoped the House would never consent in relation to a private Bill. By the Lords' Amendments free access would be allowed to such ministers at the special request of the juvenile offenders or of their parents. The same principle was recognised by our law in respect to all the prisons of the United Kingdom. It would be a most dangerous precedent to allow the introduction of the new principle that was sought for by certain hon. Members. Let the House recollect the marked instance of the Dublin Cemetery Act. He believed it was the conviction of the House that that Act contained the enunciation of no principle that had not been hitherto recognised by the law of the country. Nevertheless, it was subsequently found that there had been surreptitiously introduced into that Bill words which appeared to convey the legality of those titles which had been declared illegal by the Ecclesiastical Titles Act; and that Act was referred to and made use of as a justification for the Papal aggression, and as an argument against the passing of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act. In the present case there was a similar attempt made to give an authorised claim to the clergy of the Church of Rome, by virtue of their office, to enter those public establishments, and to instruct all the children therein. All orphans who unfortunately became liable to the penalties of the law became, as it were, the children of the State; and unless they believed that those children belonged to another faith, they had a full right to instruct them according to the tenets of the Church of England. With respect to the other Amendment, relating to the rights of the bishops in the appointment of chaplains, it should be recollected that the principle there recognised was in accordance with the general practice of our county gaols. He hoped that the House would not depart from the general practice by inserting new principles and inconsistent provisions in a private Bill.


said, he objected to the Bill altogether, for he thought that its object would be most fitly carried out by the Government measure now before the House.


said, that though he did not concur in the second reading of the Bill, because he thought that the principle was one which should be dealt with by a general Bill, yet he assented to it because the Home Secretary did not then think that he would be able to introduce a general measure upon the subject. At his suggestion the Bill was referred to a Select Committee, and when the Committee were appointed they carefully applied themselves to the consideration of the whole question, and they unanimously adopted a clause with regard to religious worship which authorised the ministers of different religious persuasions to attend the different inmates of the establishment, subject to regulations to be made by the visiting magistrates, in order to prevent any irregularity, or the access of improper persons to the children of the establishment. The clause also provided that liberty should be given to the children of different persuasions to attend divine service on the Sabbath according to their particular religious convictions. This was the clause which had been omitted by the House of Lords; and when it was brought before the House of Commons the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) objected to it, but the House affirmed it by a majority. It was said that this was an entirely new principle, but if hon. Gentlemen would refer to the Irish Prisons' Act, the 7 Geo. IV. —["Oh, oh!"]—he would remind hon. Members that Ireland was a part of the British empire, and was entitled to be treated as such—the Irish Prisons' Act gave to the Roman Catholic clergy as well as to Dissenting ministers, free access to the gaols and prisons in Ireland. He saw papers circulated amongst hon. Members that day, which denied to the Roman Catholic clergy the right to perform divine service except in their own chapels or in private houses. He would, however, refer the House to an Act in which Parliament had fully recognised the right of the Roman Catholic clergy to perform divine service in the gaols and prisons. [Mr. SPOONER: But that Act does not apply to England.] If it were intended now to declare by a vote of the house that it was illegal for the Roman Catholic clergy to perform divine service to our soldiers or to the prisoners in our gaols, he for one could not be a party to such vote. He was sorry that the noble Lord (Lord D. Stuart) had moved this Amendment, because, if carried, it would have the effect of rejecting the Bill altogether. He would be willing to vote with the noble Lord if he confined his Amendment to disagreeing with the Lords' Amendments. And in the event of that proposition being carried, he would not despair of settling matters amicably with the House of Lords in a conference. As, however, there was a general Bill upon the subject, applicable to all the country, he thought there was less necessity for this Bill. He should certainly prefer that the Bill were lost than that it should be passed under present circumstances.


said, he would be glad to hear how the right hon. Gentleman could contradict the fact that the original clause referred to was not one that would be introducing a new principle into the prison discipline of England.


said, he had just been informed that the practice was at present carried out in Dartmoor and other prisons in England.


said, he was not aware of the fact, but, at all events, those prisons were not regulated by Act of Parliament; they were under the authority of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He hoped and trusted that the House would not take as a precedent the practice adopted in some of the prisons in Ireland. If the right hon. Baronet would show him that any Roman Catholic or Presbyterian in prison, if he expressed a wish for a clergyman of his own persuasion, was prevented by the law from receiving the visit of such person, he (Mr. Miles) would then admit the necessity of new legislation upon the subject. He, however, defied the right hon. Gentleman to show him anything of the kind. Why, then, should they attempt to alter the law as regards prison discipline in one particular case He was sorry that a general law upon the subject was not carried out. We wanted reformatory schools all over the country to be established by a general Government measure. But this was not a Government measure. He hoped that the House would adopt the Amendments of the House of Lords, which only recognised the principle that had been hitherto invariably acted upon, and that hon. Members would not jeopardise a measure which he believed was calculated to confer much advantage on the people.


said, that after the appeal made to him by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, he would, if the House would permit him, withdraw the Motion he had made, and substitute for it an Amendment to the effect that this House disagrees with the Lords' Amendments.


said, he hoped the House would permit the noble Lord to withdraw his Amendment.


said, he could not but be struck with the inconsistency of hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, in objecting to the withdrawal of the noble Lord's Amendment, and yet professing to be anxious for the passing of the measure. He conceived that their object evidently was not to have an industrial Bill, but a proselytising Bill. ["Oh, oh!"] [The hon. Gentleman then quoted several extracts from the Ragged School Union Magazine of June and July to justify his assertion.] The concession of those hon. Members to the Roman Catholics went to this extent—that in respect to the children of the Established Church, they were to be compelled to attend the divine service of their Church, but in respect to Roman Catholic children, they were to be permitted to attend the service of a Church to which they did not belong. And yet they admitted that the large of juvenile criminals in the United Kingdom were of the Roman Catholic religion. This paper also insisted upon it that the very life-blood of these institutions was to diffuse among the Roman Catholic inmates Protestant teaching, and that every obstruction ought to be placed in the way of their receiving Roman Catholic teaching. That was the meaning of the article, and nothing else. And no man could deny, after reading it, that the object of the Middlesex magistrates, in introducing into the House of Lords these Amendments, and so endeavouring to reverse the decision of the House of Commons, was to found an establishment which should receive within its walls a majority of Roman Catholic children under the pretence of reforming them, and refuse to them the best means of reformation—the opportunity of worshipping Almighty God according to the religion in which they had been brought up—which should put in play against them all the means of proselytism with the view of perverting them from the religion they professed, and thus do them the greatest possible mischief which human beings could receive at the hands of the Parliament of this empire. It should be borne in mind that the inmates of this establishment would be vagrants, not felons and criminals. The poor boys would have lived in the constant practice of their religion—they would not have broken any law of morality, or any law of mall of any higher character than a police regulation; they would have been punctual in the discharge of their religious duties, and in their attendance on the sacraments of their Church; and the Bill, in its present shape, would have the effect of authorising the police and the bigoted section of the magistrates of Middlesex to take these poor children out of the streets, place them in the hands of Mr. Pownall, and empower him and his fellow magistrates to use all the direct coercion and influence that they could bring to bear in order to pervert them from the religion of their forefathers! It was a gross, a rank injustice. They had now arrived at a time when the Roman Catholics had to consider whether or not they were to be treated like the rest of the people of this country; whether this was a land in which they were to be allowed to live, and to be treated with common fairness and justice; or whether they were to have "aliens" stamped upon their foreheads by such legislation as the House had then before it. For his part he should do everything in his power to defeat this nefarious legislation, and if the Bill passed into a law he should use his utmost endeavours to procure the repeal of the enactment.


said that one of the greatest evils which Parliament had experienced during the present Session was the curse of religious differences intervening to prevent useful legislation. He appealed to the hon. Member for East Somersetshire (Mr. Miles) not to oppose the withdrawal of the noble Lord's (Lord Dudley Stuart's) Amendment, but allow the House at once to decide upon the question which was really before them, namely, whether it would or would not agree to the Lords' Amendments, Upon the acceptance or rejection of these Amendments depended the fate of the Bill. The measure had been received with considerable favour by the House, and he was certainly most desirous that it should become law as speedily as possible. He himself had assisted in Committee in framing the clause to which allusion had been made, and he was most anxious to give the Roman Catholics every advantage they could reasonably expect in preparing the Bill. The clause had gone up to the House of Lords. That House had taken exception to it, and sent the Bill down in its present state. What he had to consider then was, whether he should assent to the Lords' Amendments or not; in other words, whether the Bill should pass this Session or not. He believed that if the Amendments were rejected, it would be utterly futile in him to attempt to pass it during the present Session. Under these circumstances he had come to the conclusion, though with much reluctance, to give his support to the Amendments. At the same time he could assure the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Lucas) and his co-religionists that he was ready to aid them in any attempt they might make to obtain that measure of justice of which the Amendments introduced by the Lords deprived them. He could not, however, make up his mind, for the sake of that, to postpone for a year, and, perhaps, indefinitely, a Bill which was founded on far different principles to those of any others that had been presented to the House for the establishment of reformatory institutions, and which, considering the immense number of juvenile criminals who were constantly passing through the prisons of Middlesex, he could not too strongly express his desire to see at once passed into a law.


said, that if the noble Lord (Lord D. Stuart) withdrew his Amendment, then they would come at once to the question, whether the Lord's Amendments should be agreed to or not. Upon that vote would depend, not alone the clause to which reference had been made, but the fate of the Bill itself; for the clause which was introduced in Committee, which was passed by that House afterwards, and which had subsequently been rejected by the House of Lords, was notoriously so impracticable a clause that its adoption would be fatal to the working of the Bill. He had the highest authority, the authority of practical men, for saying so. He had no wish whatever to act unjustly towards Roman Catholics. On the contrary, he had been anxious to introduce clauses that would give them the most liberal treatment; but he could not imagine that, with that object in view, the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Lucas) would desire to adopt an impracticable clause. The clause they were about to vote upon was to the effect, that the criminal children should not attend a religious worship which was contrary to their religious principles; secondly, that they should be taught in the creed of their parents, which, from his own experience in a majority of cases, was direct infidelity; not the infidelity of carelessness, but of reason; in short, a rational infidelity, and so far the clause insisted upon their being brought up in the creed of infidelity; and, thirdly, that all ministers of every persuasion should have a right to enter at any time, and on Sundays if they thought fit, in order to perform service within these institutions. sow, when the Rev. Sidney Turner, the Governor of Red Hill Reformatory School, the principal institution of the sort in this country, read the debate which led to the insertion of this clause, he said— I am astonished that any man in his senses, having a knowledge of the working of these institutions, should have consented to the adoption of such a clause. If it be made to form part of the Bill, it will have the effect of shutting up the institution at Red for it will render the government of the institution altogether impossible. The Amendments which the Lords had inserted would put the institution on the same footing as a prison. There were, however, some words in the Amendments which were offensive—he alluded to the restrictions they imposed upon the introduction into these institutions of improper persons. These words might seem to connect the ministers of religion with improper persons, and they had better have been omitted.


said, he could assure the hon. Member for Meath that he was entirely mistaken in supposing that the Middlesex magistrates desired to make this school an instrument of proselytism. He would venture to say for them, and particularly for Mr. Pownall, to whom the hon. Member had referred, that the thought had never entered into the mind of any of their number. On the contrary, he believed they were actuated by the simple motive of desiring to prevent the commission of crime by bringing under healthy moral influence that portion of the population from whose ranks the class of criminals had been hitherto recruited and supplied. He (Mr. Williams) had voted for the clause rejected by the House of Lords; but rather than lose a measure of such value, he should not hesitate to support the Bill in its present shape.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Amendments agreed to, as far as page 13, line 36.

Page 13, line 36, the next Amendment, (Leave out from "That" to the end of the Clause, and insert "if any juvenile offender shall be of a religious persuasion differing from that of the Established Church, a minister of such persuasion, at the special request of such juvenile offender, or at the special request of his or her parents, shall be allowed to visit him or her at proper and reasonable times, under such restrictions imposed by the Committee of Visitors as shall guard against the introduction of improper persons and shall prevent improper communications,") read a second time.


said, that having taken part in the discussion of the clause winch the Lords had rejected, and having also voted in favour of that clause, he trusted the House would allow him to explain the course which he deemed it his duty to take on the present occasion. When that clause was discussed, he stated his opinion that, in giving religious instruction to the unfortunate children in these establishments, they must either be considered children of the State and be taught the religion of the State, or if their religious differences were to be respected, legislation should not stop short of the clause they were then considering. Upon that ground he gave his vote in favour of the clause. But, the House of Lords had now suggested another course, and the alternative before the House was either to agree to the Amendments of the Lords or abandon the Bill altogether. He was quite of the same opinion as his noble Friend (Lord R. Grosvenor), and he could not take upon himself to incur the responsibility of endangering the passing of the Bill. He attached the greatest possible importance to the measure; he was most earnestly desirous of seeing it passed into a law; and, under these circumstances, he must take the same course as his noble Friend, and give his vote for the Lords' Amendments.


I beg leave to move that this House do disagree with this Amendment of their Lordships.


I am not now going to argue this question, but I wish just to observe that there is another course open to this House beside that pointed out to us by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir J. Pakington), who said that we must either agree to the Lords' Amendments or the Bill would be lost altogether. There is another course which the House of Lords may take, and that is, not to insist upon the adoption of their Amendments. It appeared to me that the Bill as it went up from this House was a very reasonable Bill. I also thought this clause a very fair one; and as the expunging of it seems to imply that whatever number of persons there may be of a different persuasion from the Established Church in any one of these reformatory institutions, they cannot ever be allowed to have divine service performed, or instruction given according to their own religious convictions, I certainly must disagree with this Amendment.


said, he thought the House of Lords had exercised a very wise discretion in refusing to enact that religious worship should take place in these schools according to every religious creed. At the same time, the omission of such a positive and declaratory enactment did not necessarily carry the effect of an absolute prohibition of such a proceeding.


said, he should support the proposition to reject the Lords' Amendment. He would not do so in any sectarian spirit, but simply because he wished to see justice done to all classes of his fellow-countrymen.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the House doth agree with The Lords in the said Amendment."

The House divided:—Ayes 151; Noes 124: Majority 27.

The next Amendment agreed to.

The last Amendment, page 15, (Leave out Clause 31,) read a second time.

Motion made, and Question put, "That this House doth agree with The Lords in the said Amendment."

The House divided:—The numbers re- ported by the Tellers were, Ayes, 202; Noes 67: Majority 135.

Notice taken, that Mr. Grenville Berkeley, the Member for Evesham, had given his voice with the Noes, and had voted with the Ayes.

Whereupon Mr. Speaker directed his vote to be recorded with the Noes:—Ayes 201; Noes 68: Majority 133.

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