HC Deb 24 July 1873 vol 217 cc956-62

Bill, as amended, considered.


proposed a new clause, taken almost word for word from the Scotch Education Act of last year, providing that any person who took into his service a child under 13 years of age, unable to read or write, should be deemed thereby to undertake the duty of a parent as to elementary education.

New Clause (Any person who takes into his service a child under thirteen unable to read or write shall be deemed thereby to undertake duty of parent as to elementary education,)—(Viscount Sandon,)—brought up, and read the first time.

Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."


observed that it had been often said that an Act of Parliament could do anything but convert a man into a woman, and that clause proposed to convert an employer into a parent. A person who took a poor child into his employment, really from motives of charity, would, in consequence, be saddled with serious consequences, and in his opinion the clause was a most objectionable one. If it were passed, the result would be that a benevolent employer would dismiss the child from his employment, rather than have such heavy responsibilities imposed upon him. The ultimate consequence of the clause would be to drive such poor children into the street, and more unwise or despotic legislation for the purpose in view could not be imagined. He hoped the House would not fulminate such a decree against persons who were acting in the interests of benevolence.


thought that though the clause might, with advantage in some instances, be carried into effect, yet it raised too important and complicated a question to be adopted at the present late period of the Session. He was aware, however, that the clause had been urged by many school boards after much consideration.


said, that the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford (Mr. Harcourt) had entirely mistaken the object of the clause, which had nothing to do with vagrant children, but was a general clause making education a condition for employment of labour. This kind of indirect compulsion was chiefly relied upon by some countries, as in Denmark, and certainly, before we succeeded in making compulsion universal in this country, direct compulsion must be backed up by some form of indirect compulsion of this kind. But with the doubts which had been expressed by competent authority—that the words of the proposed clause would interfere with other forms of indirect compulsion already existing in the Factory and Workshops Acts, he would suggest to the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon) that he should not push his new clause at present—though, if he did, he would vote for it.


remarked, in answer to Mr. HARCOURT, that such a sys- tem of compulsion as that which he proposed existed at present under the Factory Acts. He had been urged only five minutes ago by the Vice President of Council to bring on the clause; but after being deserted by him in a manner of which he had right to complain, he would not persevere with the clause.


explained that he told the noble Lord that there was a great deal in his proposal which deserved support, but that it would require a good deal of alteration.


put the Question, That the clause, by leave of the House, be withdrawn. [Cries of "No, no!"]


said, that if it was intended to divide, he should like to say a few words on the clause. It went much further than the Factory Acts, as it provided no modified half-time system at all. The school boards were beginning at the wrong end by taking hold of these children who were learning how to earn their living, instead of turning their attention to the education of those poor children who wandered about the streets of large towns and never went to work.


expressed it to be his intention, if the House went to a division, to vote for the clause. He, however, hoped it would be allowed to be withdrawn.


said, that the Government did not object to the principle of the clause, but they must vote against it for two reasons. First, it was a subject upon which a serious difference of opinion existed, and it was undesirable that at so late a stage of the Bill any provisions should be introduced into it that did not meet with the full consent of the House. Secondly, the clause was objectionable in some of its details. It would be the duty of the Government to vote against it; but that must not be taken as an indication that the Government disapproved of the principle of the clause.

Question put, and negatived.


moved a new clause for dividing the Lambeth division of the London School Board district into the Lambeth and Wandsworth divisions—the Lambeth division to consist of the borough of Lambeth and the parts of the parishes of Lambeth and Camberwell outside the borough; and the Wandsworth division, of the parishes of Clapham, Tooting Graveney, Streatham, Battersea (excluding Penge), Wandsworth, and Putney. The parish contained 500,000 people and had an area of 32 square miles.

New Clause (Division of Lambeth into two School Board districts,—(Mr. Cubitt,)—brought up, and read the first time.


said, if that was the proper time, he should fully concur with the hon. Member in thinking that a division of the area of Lambeth was desirable. But there were other large districts, such as Greenwich, Finsbury, and Marylebone, which also required to be divided; Greenwich for area, and Finsbury and Maryle bone on account of population. The question was, whether such arrangements could be made at that stage of the Bill. Though he considered the hon. Member had a good case, for the reason he had stated he could not vote for the clause.


said, the reasons for the division of Lambeth were so strong that if the hon. Member for East Surrey divided the House he would vote for the clause.


supported the principle of the clause, as he thought the population of Lambeth was too large to be represented as they were now on the School Board.


said, the difficulty of the proposition was, that it opened a much larger question than the division of the borough of Lambeth—in fact, it would lead to the consideration of the larger question of the re-distribu-of seats on the London School Board. That was a grave question, which ought not to be raised at present, especially as he understood that no representation had been made by the representatives of Lambeth to the Education Department or to the School Board on the subject. It would be quite time enough to consider the question when such an application was made.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."

The House divided:—Ayes 77; Noes 128: Majority 51.


proposed a clause, providing that after a school board had established sufficient schools in a locality it might be dissolved?

New Clause (After the School Board has established sufficient schools the Board may be dissolved,)—(Lord John Manners,)—brought up, and read the first time.


opposed the clause as introducing a new principle into our legislation. Besides providing sufficient school accommodation, other duties fell upon the Board, one of them being to enforce compulsory attendance at the school.


reminded the right hon. Gentleman that in the case of Highway Boards a Board could un board itself.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."

The House divided:—Ayes 63; Noes 126: Majority 63.

Clause 3 (Repeal of and substitution of other provisions for 18 & 19 Viet. c. 34. (Denison Act).

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 21, to leave out the words "it shall be a condition of such relief that."—(Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, In page 1, line 26, after the word "purpose," to insert the words "relief out of the workhouse may he granted to the indigent parent of any poor child between five and thirteen years of age to enable him to send such child to a public elementary school by withdrawing him from labour, providing him with suitable clothing, and paying the school fees."—(Mr. Stapleton.)


said, the Amendment proposed by the hon. Gentleman would without doubt be an important addition to the clause, but it was open to the objection that it would alter the conditions of Poor Law relief. The clause as passed in Committee not only enabled, but required Guardians to see that the children of out-door paupers were educated and to provide proper relief if necessary for that purpose. But the Amendment would introduce this principle—that a man who was not a pauper, according to the general definition of pauperism, might become one solely for the purpose of the education of his children.

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.

Clause 23 (Regulations as to legal proceedings).


in moving the omission of sub-section 6, said, it would in effect introduce a new principle into the criminal law, by compelling a man to prove lie was not guilty before evidence had been offered against him. It should lie on the Inspector to prove that children in respect of whom the parent was summoned were of an age which rendered them liable to be sent to school.

Amendment proposed, in page 8, line 37, to leave out from the word "certificate," to the words "if a Child," in line 41.—(Mr. J. G. Talbot.)


believed that his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council had introduced that provision on the strong report of the School Board of London, with a view to meet the difficulty which they had experienced in proving the age of a child. If the child were at any employment, a strong temptation was afforded to the father not to allow the age of the child to appear, and he thought that, therefore, was a most reasonable provision.


supported the Motion, on the ground that the sub-section introduced a new rule at variance with all the ordinary rules for the administration of justice. The argument of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Reed) amounted to this—that because it was difficult to prove a man guilty they ought to assume his guilt. Such a proposition was subversive of the first principle of their law. An Act to that effect would have had a considerable effect in shortening a certain criminal case now in course of trial


said, they should not forget the interests of the child in considering the interests of the parent. The principle of the clause had been already adopted in the Vaccination and Factory Acts.


was heartily sorry and ashamed to hear that the London School Board had been the authors of this provision. Could anything be more absurd or unjust than an enactment which threw the onus of proving the educational efficiency of a particular school upon the scared and ignorant parent, who was had up for not sending his child to the new Board school? He cordially supported the Amendment.


regarded the provision in the Bill as being a beneficial one in the interests of the children.


denied that the clause embodied any new principle.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided:—Ayes 113; Noes 60: Majority 53.

Bill to be read the third time Tomorrow, at Two of the clock.