HC Deb 10 June 1861 vol 163 cc893-8

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses up to Clause 12 were agreed to.

Clause 13 (Limitation of Stay at School),


said, he hoped a discretionary power would be given as to the discharge of female children at the age of fifteen. He, therefore, proposed that the word "male" should be inserted be-ford the word "child."


observed, that he could not agree to the proposal of the noble Lord on account of the expense it would entail on the Treasury.

Amendment negatived.

Clause 14 (Discharge of Child from School),


said, he objected to the provision in the clause that allowed the Secretary of State to empower any person, whether a relation or not, to take a child out of the schools merely on undertaking to provide for it. It was bad enough that the Secretary of State should have power to remove a child from a school where the child was educated in the religion of its parents; but that was going still further.


said, he saw no objection to the clause, or any chance of its being abused.


said, he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that it was very likely to be abused in Ireland.


Yes, but the Act only applies to England.


said, he would propose to strike out the words which allowed "any other person" to remove the child. The provision would lead to proselytism.


said, these words were in a former Bill, and urged that it was not likely the Secretary of State would abuse his power.


asked if there was any instance under the old law of the power having been beneficially exercised? Let the Committee observe that there was no power to get the child back again under any circumstances.


said, he also objected to the clause as it stood.


considered that near relations were frequently the worst of guardians for children of this class.


said, he would agree to limit the power to near relations.


said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary should take time and consider the whole bearing of these words before he consented to omit them.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 15 (Maintenance of Child at School),


said, that by the clause whatever loss might be sustained by these schools was to be paid out of the Treasury. Considering how the Miscellaneous Estimates were growing up every year, it behoved the Committee to watch carefully any proposal to increase them. It was no use to object to items of this kind on the Estimates, because if hon. Members rose to do so they were told they were too late, and that they ought to have opposed the outlay when the Bill was before the House. He should like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he had looked at the Bill in a financial point of view. There was no limit to the expenditure under the Bill, except the discretion of the Government. The working of the Bill depended on the activity and benevolence of private individuals, and they ought not to be induced to look to the public treasury to make up any loss that might be sustained by these schools. He thought it was the duty of the Committee to reject the clause.


said, the hon. Member was mistaken if he supposed that any new principle was established by this Bill. Assistance on the same principle was given to the reformatory schools, to which these industrial schools were to be subsidiary. If they were successful in their operation they would cut off the supply of inmates to the reformatory school. Up to the present year grants had been made by the Privy Council in aid of industrial schools. By a recent Act, however, these schools had been transferred to the Home Office; and, unless it was the wish of the Committee to cut off the supply which industrial schools had hitherto received, it would be necessary to insert some such clause as that now under consideration.


asked if there was any exception made in respect to children sent to the schools at the request of their parents?


stated that at a future stage he would insert words exempting from the payments made by the Government children who might be sent to industrial schools at the desire of their parents.


said, he must complain that after the Bill had been passed through Committee pro forma great alterations had had been made involving expenditure. He wished to know whether any estimate of the probable expenses had been made? An allowance of 5s. a head would be a great temptation to parents to neglect their children in order to bring them into the category of those who were sent to these schools. If the money were once paid by the Government they would have great difficulty in getting it back. He was anxious that destitute children should be properly cared for, but parents should not be tempted to neglect their children.


said, the measure was important, because it affected all the labouring poor of the country. He protested against the whole Bill as wholly uncalled for.


said, he presumed that the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets did not propose to negative the clause, which would be tantamount to rejecting the Bill altogether. If the Committee were of opinion that the Treasury should be allowed to contribute something to industrial schools, the proper time for discussing the amount of the grants would be when the expenditure came before them in the annual Estimates. The power of contributing to reformatory or industrial schools was not limited by any existing Act.


complained that the measure was an enactment for a new system of reformatory schools.


said, the Bill gave power to two justices to charge upon the Treasury the maintenance of any children who were suspected by the police to be the associates of thieves, but that was a power far too wide to be placed in such hands.


contended that it was clear from the clause that the expense of the measure would fall on the public Treasury. He should like to hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in his opinion, it was a measure to which he could conscientiously give his sanction?


said, he thought that the House ought to have some security as to the amount of expense to be incurred in carrying out the provisions of this Bill.


said, he would be glad to know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer was prepared to open up a new branch of public expenditure, of which they had no estimate


remarked, that if the clause were struck out, it would not interfere with the means that might be adopted by the Educational Committee for the reformation of uninstructed children.


said, the clause involved, in fact, the principle of the Bill, and as he believed the principle of the Bill was good, he should support the clause.


said, he thought the Committee had been led away by the idea that the clause would involve it in new expense; but the truth was that since 1857 a charge had been made for these children upon the public purse, but last year it had been transferred from the Education Department to the Home Office.


said, that this Bill held out a temptation to crime. He wished the children should be properly treated, but did not think the parents should be encouraged to throw them on the public. He thought its operation would he to place the Chancellor of the Exchequer in direct competition with the guardians of unions.


pointed out that a portion of the expense would be defrayed by the parents, from whom the agent of the Home Office was enabled by the Bill to enforce payment of certain sums. This would in some measure diminish the expense and would obviate the objection that parents might be tempted to neglect their children. A considerable sum was recovered annually from parents under the Reformatory Schools Act; and it was found practically that dissolute parents dreaded their children being sent to reformatories for this very reason.


said, all the arguments which had been urged against the measure might, with equal plausibility, have been urged against the Bills for carrying out reformatories. The real objection to the clause was not the payment from the Treasury, but the probability of that being a growing and unknown amount. As, however, the schools were transferred from the superintendence of the Education Committee of the Privy Council to that of the Home Office, it became necessary to have a different mode of obtaining the requisite funds, but as an estimate of the expense would be laid annually before the Committee of Supply, it would be easy to limit the expenditure if it was found to be reaching a dangerous amount. He looked upon the measure as an experiment, and the disposition of the Home Office would be to watch its operation with jealousy, in order to prevent any unduly extensive admission of children into these schools. When reformatories were established at first he had grave doubts as to their results, but experience had shown their value. He might mention that the Parkhurst prison for juvenile criminals was only half filled through the effects of reformatories.


inquired whether the grant was in future to be administered on the principle which governed the grants of the Privy Council—of giving money to those who gave money in aid; or whether the public was to defray the whole expense? If the latter was the case a new principle was at once introduced.


said, he would suggest that, in order to allay the apprehension which appeared to be entertained, the words in the 15th Clause, empowering the Treasury "to defray the whole cost of the maintenance of any children sent to school under the Bill," should be struck out, and other words should be inserted, enabling the Treasury "to contribute" towards the maintenance of such children.


said, he feared that the whole expense would fall on the public at large without the establishment if any efficient control.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made and Question proposed "That Clause 15, as amended, stand part of the Bill,"


objected that the clause provided for the cost of maintenance as well as education.


said, that since the Act of last Session these schools were entirely under the Home Office; the Council of Education had no control over them. No alteration, however, was intended to be made in the law. The clause simply gave to the Home Office the powers now possessed by the Board of Education.

Question put,

The Committee divided:—Ayes 73; Noes 56: Majority 17.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again on Thursday.

House adjourned at Two o'clock.