HC Deb 17 July 1856 vol 143 cc1003-5

Order read for taking into consideration the Lords' Amendments to this Bill.


said, he should move that a clause which had been inserted by their Lordships, giving to magistrates power in certain cases to send juvenile criminals to a reformatory school, without the infliction of the punishment of previous imprisonment, should not be agreed to. It was incompatible with the provisions of several other clauses in the Bill.


said, he must differ from the right hon. Baronet, for he regarded the Amendment in question as quite in consonance with the other provisions of the Bill; and certainly it was a clause which, sooner or later, must be enacted. He considered that it was desirable to retain a discretionary power in the hands of the magistrates to send juvenile offenders to a reformatory institution, instead of committing them to prison, which was the object of the Lords' Amendment.


said, that although favourable to the clause, he thought it would not harmonise with other provisions of the Bill; and he therefore recommended that it should be withdrawn, and that this matter should be made the subject of legislation in a future Session.


said, he trusted the House would accept the Bill. He was at a loss to discover anything incompatible between the original clause and the Lords' Amendment. Cases often arose in which it was desirable that a child should be saved from the disgrace of being sent to a convict prison; and the law ought, in his opinion, to provide for such cases.


said, he must express his concurrence in the observations of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and should support the rejection of the Lords' Amendment.


said, he was in favour of the Lords' Amendment. He considered the practice of sending juvenile offenders at once to prison as rather calculated to confirm than correct them in their early tendency to vicious courses.


Sir, the clause under discussion is perfectly incompatible with the arrangements of the Bill as it now stands, and, in my opinion, that is quite a sufficient objection to the clause without entering into the merits of the case; but, I am bound to add, that when the subject was discussed some time ago, I entirely concurred in the principle upon which this clause was resisted. It is now, however, urged, that committing children to prison before sending them to reformatory institutions places them, to a certain extent, beyond the chance of reformation. If, however, this House decides upon sending children to those institutions in the first instance, I very much fear that parents will induce their children to commit offences in order to have them educated at the public expense. To avoid this I consider that they should be subjected to some short period of imprisonment before being sent to any reformatory institution. The object of the Bill is to reform criminals, not to hold out to the lower classes the temptation of getting their children educated at the expense of the country. It is objectionable in principle, because, instead of a punishment, it holds out a species of premium to crime.


said, no Member of the Government had attempted to prove that the clause was incompatible with the general purport of the Bill, but they had all contented themselves with asserting that the fact was so. The argument of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), that parents might induce their children to steal that they might be admitted into these schools, was, in his belief, fallacious. The parents bad an interest in getting them into prison, where they would be supported at the expense of the public; but they could not have any in forcing them into schools where they would have to contribute to their support.


said, that if he were not precluded by the rules of the House from again speaking on the ques- tion, he could demonstrate that the clause was incompatible with the general purpose of the Bill.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 46; Noes 31: Majority 15.

Committee appointed, "to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing with the Amendment to which this House hath disagreed:"—Sir GEORGE GREY, Mr. MASSEY, the LORD ADVOCATE, Mr. HENLEY, Mr. FITZROY, Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE, and Mr. KINNAIRD:—To withdraw immediately; Three to be the quorum.