HC Deb 08 June 1865 vol 179 cc1263-6

, who had given notice of his intention to move that this Bill should be taken into consideration tomorrow, said, that the measure was in rather a peculiar position. It was a Bill promoted by the Middlesex magistrates to increase their power over industrial schools, and for other objects. The House was of opinion that the Bill was so far a public Bill that it should be referred to a Select Committee partly appointed by the Committee of Selection. That Committee considered the Bill and reported it to the House with Amendments. Among those Amendments were two clauses relating to the religious instruction of the inmates of schools. He found from the evidence of Captain Brooks, an officer of the school, that there were no less than eighty Roman Catholic pupils, who all attended the service and learnt the Catechism of the Established Church; and the Rev. Sidney Turner, the chaplain, expressed it as his opinion that it was highly desirable that these children should have the opportunity of being instructed by a Roman Catholic priest. The Committee appeared to have been of the same opinion, because they inserted in the Bill two clauses providing that the warrant of commitment of a juvenile offender should specify the religious denomination to which he belonged, and that if that was a denomination other than the Church of England the Committee of visitors should allow a minister of such denomination to visit such offender, unless it was objected to by him. Captain Glossop, the chairman of the sub-committee of magistrates, who had charge of the Bill, as the provisions were similar to those introduced into the new Prisons Act, recommended the acceptance of these clauses as concessions which could not be refused; but, unfortunately, a majority of the Middlesex magistrates did not take that view of the matter, and they adopted a resolution—the House of Commons having prescribed conditions in reference to the religious instruction of the inmates—to withdraw the Bill. Accordingly, an hon. Member the other day moved, at the instance of the promoters, to discharge the order for further proceeding with the Bill, but that Motion was very properly negatived. The Bill was now, therefore, deserted by its promoters, and no one was prepared to proceed with it. Under these circumstances, it was his intention to endeavour to pass the Bill through the House, but he had been informed by the Speaker that the adoption of that course would involve the House in some difficulty, and that the better course would be to allow the Bill to drop now, in the hope that there might be some general legislation upon the subject next year. He hoped that the Secretary for the Home Department, with the concurrence of the House generally, would take some steps to bring in a public measure next Session to remedy the grievance of which the Roman Catholics so justly complained in the present instance. In conclusion, he had, simply as a matter of form, to move that the Bill be taken into consideration to-morrow.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Middlesex Industrial Schools Bill, as amended in the Committee, be taken into Consideration To-morrow."—(Mr. Hennessy.)


said, he doubted the propriety of the Motion made by the hon. Gentleman, inasmuch as there was a Standing Order of the House to the effect that a Private Bill should not pass a stage unless notice were given by the agent. No such notice had been given, and the hon. Member was therefore, in his opinion, quite right in not pressing his Motion.


said, he hoped the Bill would remove the evil of which the Roman Catholics complained, and regretted very much the course the magistrates had taken in abandoning the Bill, because of the very reasonable provision which had been introduced into it with the unanimous concurrence of the Committee. It was not possible to bring in a public measure this Session, but the question was one which he admitted was worthy of consideration.


said, he wished to express his gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman for the observations which had just fallen from him. The course adopted by his hon. Friend the Member for the King's County was, he thought, the most judicious which, under the circumstances, he could have adopted. The question was one which involved a great hardship, and one which was rather of a public than a private character, inasmuch as it affected the pockets of the ratepayers to the extent of £70,000, that being the sum expended on a school capable of containing 800 boys. It was proved in the evidence taken before the Committee that, although there was a large number of Roman Catholic boys in the schools, they might be taught a catechism of a creed at variance with their own, and that if they refused to learn that catechism they might be punished; while if the parents had the courage to make a report on the subject they were liable to fine. Though the parents might make a special request for the boys to see a Roman Catholic minister they were not allowed to do so, and were obliged to go to the Protestant chapel. Indeed, a great deal might be said on the subject of the Bill; but, as it would have to be sifted at some future time, he would not trespass on the attention of the House by dwelling upon it, beyond observing that it was a grievous thing that the Middlesex magistrates should come to the conclusion to abandon the measure very much on account of the by no means too liberal portion of religious liberty conceded by the Committee upstairs. Nobody, however, could be surprised at the course which they had taken, who recollected how they had acted in the case of the Prison Discipline Bill. He did not wish to characterize such conduct in severe language, but he thought it was a dark and black case, and it appeared to him that the hon. Member for the King's County had done a great good by letting even a small gleam of light into it.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.