§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 (Registrar of Births and Deaths may be superannuated.)
thought it was a great hardship to throw the charge for registration upon the real property of the country.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clauses 2 to 14, inclusive, agreed to.
§ Clause 15 (Limits imposed by 7 & 8 Vict. c. 101 and 14 & 15 Vict. c. 105 withdrawn.)
entertained considerable objection. At present, a workhouse child could not be sent away beyond twenty miles from the union, but this clause did away with the limit altogether.
knew the inconvenience of fixing an exact limit. All he sought was that the children should not be so placed as to lose all sight of their connections.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
said, the matter was well considered in the Committee, and the reasons there given were considered fully to justify the change of the law, and it was assented to by the whole Committee.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, that in London the best thing that could be done for the children would be to separate them from their connections.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.1582
§ LORD BINGHAM,
in moving the insertion of a new clause providing for the education of pauper children in the religion to which they belong, said, his object was to do a simple act of justice to a large section of their Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen, many children belonging to whose faith were at present, there was good reason to suppose, brought up in London workhouse schools as Protestants. In support of his proposition, he desired to read a statement contained in a letter from the Hon. Charles Langdale, narrating the circumstances connected with the case of the children of a woman named Mary Sarsfield. The statement was as follows:—Mary Sarsfield died in Milbank Prison on the 6th of April, 1865, having three children in the workhouse, where they were taken at her imprisonment. Previously to her death, she requested a paper to be written, and which she signed (not knowing how to write) in the presence of two of the female officers in the prison, who likewise affixed their signatures, leaving these three children to my care in order that they should be brought up Catholics—her own religion. On her deathbed the prisoner expressed her satisfaction that the faith of her children was thus secured to them. Upon inquiry, I found that these children had been sent to the district school at Southall. I applied, therefore, to the Marylebone Board of Guardians, laying before them the paper signed by the mother in the presence of witnesses. The Board agreed to take the case into their consideration—my offer being to take these children, support, and educate them at my own expense. On my visiting the Board the following week, they declined to let me have the children, or hear any further observations from me.To meet cases of this kind, and in order to secure that pauper children unconnected with the Established Church should be educated in the faith to which they belonged, he begged to move the following clause:—That if the parent, step-parent, or nearest adult relative of any child not belonging to the Established Church, relieved in a workhouse or in a district school, or in the case of an orphan the god-parent of such orphan, make application to the said Board in such behalf, the Board may, if they think fit, order that such child shall be sent to some school established for the reception, maintenance, and education of children of the religion to which such child shall belong, and duly certified by the Poor Law Board under the Statute of the 25 & 26 Vict. c. 43; and the guardians of the union or parish to which such child shall be chargeable shall, according to the terms of such order, cause the child to be conveyed to such school, and pay the costs and charges of the maintenance, lodging, clothing, and education of the said child therein, and all the provisions of the said Statute shall thenceforth apply to the said child.Clause brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
said, he saw no possible use in this clause. He believed that the guardians of the metropolitan workhouses showed a very great respect for the religious convictions of their Roman Catholic fellow-subjects. They kept registers showing the religious denominations to which each pauper child or adult belonged, and those registers could be seen by the Roman Catholic priest and the Dissenting minister, who had every facility afforded them for giving spiritual instruction. As a Poor Law Guardian of St. George's, Hanover Square, himself, he must say he had never heard of a case of proselytism; and if he had would have exposed it. He saw no necessity whatever for the provision moved by the noble Lord.
§ MR. REARDEN
thanked the noble Lord for proposing that clause, and alleged that a system of religious proselytism was carried on in certain London workhouses, particularly instancing that of St. George's, Hanover Square.
protested that he never knew of a single case of proselytism at the Board of Guardians of that union while he had been connected with it, and that if he had ever seen anything of the kind attempted he would have been the first to oppose and discountenance it.
§ MR. REARDEN
said, he entirely acquitted the hon. and gallant Member of any participation in the acts of proselytism to which he had referred.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, no hon. Member would desire that children placed in workhouses should be under a different system from what they would be if placed in industrial schools. The educational system should be denominational, and if Wesleyans or Baptists desired their children to be educated in their own tenets they had a right to have them so educated. If those workhouses were in the hands of Roman Catholics, and they had their chaplains appointed for the purpose of educating the children in them, he should think it a great hardship that Protestants should not be allowed to remove their children to a certified school where they might be taught their own religion. For that reason he was prepared to give his hearty assent to the proposal which had just been made by the noble Lord behind him. He had not, however, thought it right to make the proposal himself, inasmuch as it would 1584 have the effect of placing in his hands a power different from that possessed by his predecessors in office. The Committee ought not, he thought, to regard the question as one between antagonistic religions, nor was it a new one. The original Poor Law Act provided that every care should be taken to prevent children in workhouses from being brought up in a faith different from that of their parents, and in 1859 a set of articles were drawn up by his right hon. Friend Mr. Sotheron-Estcourt in reference to the subject, which were confirmed by Lord March, now the Duke of Richmond, who succeeded him at the Poor Law Board, and which provided for full and fair freedom as to the religious instruction to be given. He had been pressed to introduce a larger scheme dealing with the matter, but he had felt it to he his duty to decline to do so at so late a period of the Session. He had, at the same time, looked carefully into it, and wishing that all religions and all denominations should be placed on a fair footing, in the way proposed by the noble Lord, he hoped the Committee would not refuse to accept his very moderate suggestion.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that it was matter of perfect indifference to him in what principles of religion children were brought up. Now, so far as regarded the principles of religious liberty, there could be no objection to that statement; but it was made in the interest of children who were claimed as Roman Catholics. The right hon. Gentleman ought to reflect that he was increasing the number of those who by the Constitution of the country and by the doctrines and discipline of the Roman Catholic religion were undoubtedly a danger to the State. The Bill had been fully considered in the Committee, and he considered that the clause had been brought forward for the purpose of stealing a march upon Parliament without discussion. He should move "That the Chairman report Progress."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Whalley.)
§ LORD EDWARD HOWARD
said, he must certainly excuse himself from answering the peculiar views of the hon. Member for Peterborough. He readily acknowledged the liberality and kindness 1585 of the noble Lord who had taken up this matter, and of the Government for adopting his suggestion, but the clause was not all that Catholics could wish. What they desired was set forth in the Report of the Committee of 1864. Unions differed in their practice, but that of many was what every liberal and fair man, whether Protestant or Catholic, would reprobate. This was proved by evidence given before the Committee in 1864 by representatives of large London unions, who openly avowed that they did not recognize any children as Catholics, never instructed them as such, and would not allow a priest to visit any under the age of fourteen or fifteen. The conductors of a certified Catholic orphanage had requested twenty one unions in London to allow Catholic children to be taken into its schools, but the answer in every case was a refusal. These facts proved that the rights of Roman Catholics were refused.
§ MR. CANDLISH
pointed out that the clause was defective in not meeting the case in which the surviving adult relative of a child was not of the same religion as its parents, and in assuming that all children had god-parents—sponsors being dispensed with in most Dissenting baptisms.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
deprecated the remarks of the hon. Member for Peterborough, who, he said, made Protestant feeling appear ridiculous; but, at the same time, he opposed the clause, which he said was calculated to promote proselytism by Roman Catholic priests, by opening the door for the assertion of claims which it would be impossible to test.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
said, that the proposed clause was entirely consistent with the 19th clause of the original New Poor Law Act, the principle of which clause had been neglected for a long time past. Nothing was more clear than the intention that the religious opinions of the inmates of the workhouses should be respected; but the Committee which sat on the subject of Poor Law Relief recommended that such a clause as the one proposed should be accompanied by others requiring, among other things, a book to be kept, accessible to people out of the workhouse, describing the religious faith of the inmates. Some hon. Gentlemen seemed alarmed lest the proposed clause might favour proselytism by Roman Catholic priests; but he could assure the House that there was abundance of evidence that proselytism was going on in 1586 the other direction. Many guardians actually believed it to be their duty, when they found a child without friends or next of kin, to bring it up as a Protestant, without regard to what might have been the religion of the parents; in some unions the religion of Roman Catholic children was ridiculed, and the children made ashamed of it. This caused great pain to the relatives of the children, being Roman Catholics; and the clause now proposed would meet that case.
§ MR. AYRTON
objected that the clause gave the right of interference to the nearest relative of a child, and enabled him to decide in what religion the child should be educated. He might be no more than a tenth cousin to the child, and it was absurd to invest him with such an important influence upon the child's future career. Under this clause, too, a man might desert his whole family, and yet assert the right of regulating the manner in which his children should be educated. He wished to know whether there was any limit put to the charge of maintenance for these children. The clause was inadequate to carry out its proposed object, and the right hon. Gentleman should take into consideration the means of carrying out his own views. The inevitable consequence of this clause would be to transfer the charge of these children from the local authorities to the Consolidated Fund.
thought this clause right in principle. Children in the workhouses being Roman Catholics or Presbyterians, or of any other form of faith, should if there was a school of that character be sent to it. But he objected that the clause was not sufficiently clear and distinct in carrying out this, which he supposed was its object. Under the clause as it was at present worded the case might arise of a child whose father was a Roman Catholic, and whose mother was a Presbyterian; and supposing that the father died, would it be open to the mother to come forward and claim that the education of the child should be in the Presbyterian faith. How could the Poor Law Board settle the point? It did not seem they had any means of requiring proof.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
explained that he had introduced nothing controversial into the Bill, otherwise it would have no chance of passing this Session. The whole question of the religious standing of different denominations in workhouses and schools required consideration, 1587 but he accepted the proposed clause as one of a provisional character. In reply to the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), he would point out that the sum to be paid for a child was not to exceed the cost of maintenance in the workhouse, and no proposal was made to grant anything from the Consolidated Fund. As to the objection of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley), he could only say that the workhouse authorities would be bound to take the best means in their power of ascertaining the religion of the parents of the child. He did not think these difficulties could occur.
§ MR. WHALLEY
complained of what ho said was the "impertinence" of the hon. Member opposite in imputing to him Jesuitism.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
was glad the hon. Member had retracted his previous assertion as to the expression he had previously attributed to him (Mr. Newdegate).
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
He had objected to the mode in which the hon. Gentleman carried on his advocacy of the principles to which he (Mr. Newdegate) was attached, which he considered highly injurious to the cause which the hon. Member appeared to espouse.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 67; Noes 8: Majority 59.
§ On the Motion of Mr. HENLEY, words were introduced to the effect that proof should be given of the religion of the child.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.