HC Deb 14 July 1876 vol 230 cc1435-57

[Progress 13th July.]

Bill considered in Committee.

(In committee)

Clause 11 (Exception to prohibition of employment of children.)

Question again proposed, "That the words 'in the hay harvest, corn harvest, or hop picking' stand part of the Clause."


said, that in moving to report Progress on the previous evening, he had been actuated by a desire that the Committee should have a full opportunity of discussing the very important clause at which they had arrived, and the very important Amendment which had been moved on it. It appeared to him that the 11th clause embraced one of the cardinal principles of the Bill. It was not merely that they were simply to consider the six or eight weeks during which it was proposed by the clause to allow the local authority to sanction the withdrawal of the child from school; but there was a far more important principle underlying the clause—namely, whether agricultural children under a certain age should be employed in agriculture at all. That, he thought, was the principle which they ought to discuss in connection with the clause, and it certainly did seem to him that in reference to a matter of such vital importance, affecting one of the main principles of the Bill, it would have been most unfortunate if the discussion had been cut short by the late hour at which they had arrived, and if the Committee had been hurried into a division which would scarcely record their mature judgment. It therefore did appear to him that his hon. Friend the Member for South Durham (Mr. Pease) had acted with wisdom and discretion in moving, at half-past 12 o'clock in the morning, when they were about to discuss a matter of such great importance, that the question should be adjourned. He regretted the manifestations which had been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, at a later period of he Sitting, when his hon. Friend rose at about half-past 1 in the morning, to justify the course which he had taken. He (Mr. Rylands) could not help thinking that the principle of the Bill did not carry out the intentions of the noble Lord the Minister of Education. The noble Lord, in the very able and admirable speech in which he introduced the measure, specially insisted, in very strong terms, upon the necessity of having uniformity as to the conditions under which young people throughout the country should be employed. He gathered from the speech of the noble Lord that he saw serious objections to there being one law with regard to the employment of children in one branch of industry, and another law in regard to their employment in other branches of industry; and he understood the noble Lord to urge the great importance of having, as far as possible, uniformity as to the employment of children. It would appear that uniformity was the policy which had been carried out by the Legislature. In one period after another they had witnessed the introduction of measures relating to the employment of children, and all of them had tended in the direction of uniformity. They therefore had a right to say that this uniformity in the policy of the Legislature in former enactments, ought not to be departed from when they were devising means for the education of large masses of the community. There were two great reasons why they should adopt the policy of restricting the labours of young children. The first was, that in the employment of young children there had occurred instances of material injury to health; and in addition to that there was the feeling which was becoming more and more manifested in the Legislature, that the children of this country ought to be educated. They had also recognized that in regard to the parents of many of the children there had not been the disposition to prevent their children being hurried into employments at an early and unsuitable age. The result was that the Houses of the Legislature had not hesitated to interfere with the principle of freedom of contract; and they had said to the employers and the parents that they would not allow them to contract for the labour of their children, because they felt there were interests of the State which ought to over-ride that freedom of contract. They therefore said to the parents—"You are bound to give your children a sufficient education, and there is nothing in the advantage which you would derive from their wages which would justify you in keeping them from school." In regard to these two reasons for keeping children of a tender age from employment, both of them operated quite as strongly in regard to agriculture as they did in regard to trade, and what he advocated now was simply this—that the policy which the Legislature had adopted in regard to the children engaged in manufacturing industries should be adopted equally in regard to children of a tender age employed in agriculture. He had said that there were two great reasons why this policy should continue to be carried out, and one reason was the scandals which had arisen in consequence of the employment and want of education of young children. He believed that the scandals in regard to the employment of young children in agricultural pursuits were quite as great as those which had arisen from their employment in the manufacturing industries. It was not long since the Report of a Royal Commission was laid upon the Table of the House as to the employment of children in agriculture. Had hon. Members forgotten the accounts contained in that Blue Book? He had not had time to refer to them particularly, but he recollected reading the Report of the Commission, and knew that he felt horrified at the details which were given by the Commissioners as to the results of their inquiries into the conditions of the labour of the young children. If hon. Members would take the trouble to turn to that book they would find the most harrowing details in regard to cases in which little children, only fit to be at their mother's knee, had been sent out under all conditions to earn a paltry pittance in the agricultural field. He believed that the scandals were as great in regard to the employment of children in agriculture as in connection with the mills. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen might doubt that statement, but he had reason to believe that it was true. He did not wish it to be supposed that he wished to justify anything which had occurred in regard to the manufacturing industries. He believed that the legislation in to them had been a wise legislation, and as a manufacturer himself he was delighted that the Legislature had interfered to prevent the employment of young children. When the Mines Bill was before the House three or four years ago, and when a question was raised as to the prohibition of the employment of children in mines under 10 years of age, he voted against any exceptions being made, and in favour of the law being absolute that children under 10 years of age under no circumstances should be employed in mines. Therefore he asked now for the same rule to be applied to children employed in agriculture. Hon. Members opposite would no doubt be disposed to say that the argument would hardly apply, seeing that labour in the mines was unhealthy, while labour in agriculture was not detrimental to health. He could well understand when hon. Members went down to the country in such delightful weather as we had yesterday, their coming back and feeling that all the world was sunshine, with everything to make the people happy. He did not suppose that children employed in the fields in such weather would take much harm. But, unfortunately, in the variable climate of this country, serious changes in the weather were constantly occurring, and they frequently found not only warm days, but cold and wet days with bitter east winds. In the present Bill permitting the employment of young children in agriculture, there were no exceptions dependent upon the weather and the changes in the climate, but they proposed to do as had already been done in far too many cases—namely, to send children of six and eight years of age, thinly clad, in damp wet weather, and with cold east winds to follow an out-door employment. Do not let hon. Members think, therefore, that this was under every circumstance a healthy employment. He believed that the lives of hundreds of children had been shortened in consequence of the inclemency of the weather to which they were subjected. He was quite aware that in respect of certain processes of manufacture some were more healthy than others. In some, children might be employed without the slightest detriment to their health, but the Legislature knew perfectly well that it would not do to allow exceptions to creep in. When he spoke just now as to the state of the weather in the summer time, he ought to have pointed out that that was not the only period to which the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Norfolk was confined. On the contrary, it contemplated the employment of children at all times of the year when the necessity of husbandry required it. The words of the Amendment were clear and distinct—that the local authority, which in most cases would consist of farmers and the employers of these children, might, by giving notice, allow the employment of the children in the necessary operations of husbandry at any period of the year from the 1st of January until the 31st of December. He was not sufficiently acquainted with agriculture to state the periods in which the different operations of husbandry were conducted; but he knew that if they were necessary in all times of the year, the local authority, under a pressure for labour, would have power to authorize the employment of young children. He thought that ought to be avoided as much as possible, and that children under 10 years of age should be kept at school and not permitted to labour. He looked upon that as an absolute State necessity. It was an absolute necessity to have these children educated, and that was the reason why they were engaged in discussing the present measure. It did appear to him that it was only fair and reasonable that the children brought up in the agricultural districts should be so educated that they would be able to go into the large towns to compete on fair terms with those who were brought up under the educational system provided in urban localities. Under these circumstances, he felt bound to oppose the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk. Why should Parliament be called upon to declare that the agriculturists should be treated in a different manner from other employers in England? He looked upon farming as a manufacture. They had the capital, the employment of labour, and the industry. Therefore, he thought that the farmers ought to be treated in precisely the same manner as other employers of labour were treated. He was aware that for years past the farmers had been accustomed to look to the Legislature for exceptional treatment. He confessed that he regarded such a policy as a very pernicious policy. He did not think they ought to encourage it for one moment, and when his hon. Friends opposite said the farmers could not get through the harvest without juvenile labour, he thought they were raising an alarm which was altogether without foundation. He reminded the Committee that there had not been a single restriction imposed upon labour in the manufacturing districts which had not been met by the same cry of alarm. The manufacturers had always said, just as his hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk was saying now in regard to farming operations, that if the Legislature placed restrictions upon their industries, it would have a very serious and injurious effect upon them. He believed the experience of the country proved that the Legislature had not seriously interfered with these industries or with the manufacturing prosperity of the country. If it did to some extent for the moment interfere with the money-getting of the country, then, he contended, that there was something far higher than money-getting. They were bound to see that the children were properly educated and trained in order that they might make good and useful members of society. He thought the Government would deserve support if they absolutely refused that any children under 10 years of age should be employed in any part of the country in any industrial occupation. Under these circumstances, he hoped the Amendment of his hon. Friend would be resisted, and that it would be effectually defeated.


contended that in the interests of the public, the employers of labour, the parents, and the children themselves, the Amendment ought to have the support of the Committee. It was impossible to reduce the operations of agriculture to that regularity which was observed in the factory and the workshop; and the rules affecting farmers should have a certain amount of elasticity. Did the hon. Member when he spoke of uniformity, think it the same thing to employ children in industrial occupations in the country where they could breathe fresh, pure air, and to expose them to the foul and choking atmosphere of the factory and the mill? In the Report of the Commissioners on the Factory question, there were only a few slight references to anything connected with agriculture, but the Commissioners distinctly recommended that in the agricultural districts the children should be set free from attendance at school during the busy season, in order that they might take part in agricultural work, provided full attendance at school was secured during the other periods of the year. There were various operations in husbandry, such as weeding and the in-gathering of potatoes, when juvenile labour was more important than during what was strictly known as the time of harvest. In his (Mr. Rodwell's) own district, in Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, a very great quantity of seed was grown, and children were much employed to keep the beds clean from weeds in the early part of the year. In the late autumn also they were employed in gathering potatoes. In many parts children in harvest time went gleaning, and did not go to work at all. He considered that the Amendment of his hon. Friend was a reasonable one, and sufficient to meet the necessities of the case. It agreed with the Report, for the Commissioners recommended that it should be left to the local authority to fix the times when attendance at school should be insisted on, only taking care that in no case should the period of absence from school exceed six months in the year. It was the fashion to taunt those on the Conservative side with a desire to obstruct education. He denied the imputation, and asserted that there were no greater friends to education than those connected with the landed interest of the country. He should give his unflinching and unhesitating support to the Amendment of his hon. Friend.


said, that that was the first Amendment touching the education of children engaged in agriculture; but although the Bill was a great advance in some respects, he feared that if the Amendment were adopted the children employed in agriculture would be worse off under the Bill than they were at the present time. ["No, no!"] The recommendations of the Factory Commissioners to which the hon. and learned Member for Cambridgeshire had so triumphantly referred were irrelevant to the question before the House; for they did not apply to the question whether children of 6 years of age should be permitted to be employed under any conditions, but to the employment of children, between the ages of 10 and 14. He believed the effect of the Amendment would be to injure the the children employed in agriculture. ["No, no!"] It would be injurious to a child of the age of 5½ or 6 years to employ it even in summer weather, but the hon. and learned Member for Cambridgeshire thought young children could be advantageously employed in weeding. Now, what was weeding? [Laughter.] If any hon. Members thought that a subject for laughter and scorn let them read the Report of the Factory Commission, and when they read the harrowing details of children of 6 and 7 being sent out early in the morning to weed in the wet fields, he thought their laughter and their scorn would turn to something very different. There was nothing in the Report of the Agricultural Commission to justify the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Norfolk. The Agricultural Children Act, bad as it was, gave some security that children should have an education of some kind, but under the Bill that Act would be repealed, and nothing would be left in its place. His second objection was that not only would the Amendment, if carried, injure these children educationally, but it would have the effect of acting disastrously on the efficiency of the school by their irregular attendance; and his third objection was that no official evidence could be produced to show that the Amendment was required in favour of the agricultural interest. The Report of the Agricultural Commission showed that in no county was agriculture in such a thriving condition as in Northumberland. In no county were labourers better off, the farmers more prosperous, and the landlords more satisfied. In that county children were not sent to work before 12 years of age, and seldom before 13 or 14 years. The friends of education would never rest satisfied until legislation was based upon a principle that would ensure education to those employed in agriculture as well as to those employed in manufactures or any other branch of industry. Their contention was that no branch of industry should enjoy a monopoly of ignorance.


said, the object of the Amendment was to give exceptional powers to local authorities to suspend that which might be a general rule under the particular circumstances of the necessary operations of industry in the in-gathering of crops. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Hackney, when he wished to know why a difference should be drawn between agriculture and manufactures, should have appealed to Providence and not to the House of Commons. The reason was that agriculture could not be regulated by man like industrial and mining operations. Take, for example, the gathering of hops, which could not be done altogether by the people on the spot. On a fine day a whole family went into the hop garden. They were paid according to the quantity they picked, and not even hon. Members opposite could say there was much hardship in a chubby child of nine helping to fill a basket with hop flowers. There must be hands to gather the hops, and if the children were not allowed to help, the work would be done by objectionable people from the slums of London, and the respectable families on the spot would be punished in pocket. He trusted the Committee would adopt the Amendment not as a general principle, but as called for by exceptional circumstances.


denied that the Report of the Commissioners could be quoted in support of the Amendment. The Committee were now dealing not with children of 10, but between the ages of 5 and 10. No one had shown why there was more necessity for employing children of tender years in agricultural pursuits than in manufactures, and he suggested whether some other age than 10 might not be adopted in order to induce unanimity on the question.


said, that unless the Committee agreed upon some compromise the discussion would be endless. They ought to be able to arrive at such a result without loss of time, and he would suggest they should adopt the age of 8 years, which was the age mentioned in the Agricultural Children Employment Act, and nine weeks as the term of absence from school. He appealed to the hon. Member for Burley, who appeared to know everything under the sun, whether it would not be better to adopt one of the two alternatives he (Sir Walter Barstool) suggested.


feared that if 8 years were adopted it would weaken the hands of the Home Secretary in dealing with the question of employment, and he could not suppose that the labour of children under 9 was of much value. As a matter of principle, there ought to be some rule laid down for agricultural children as well as for other employments. He was rather in favour of. the suggestion of the suspension of the Act for nine weeks for the necessary operations of husbandry and the ingathering of crops, rather than that the period of attendance at school should be reduced from 10 to 8 or 9 years of age.


said, that according to the common farm practice in Norfolk, the children were not much wanted. But there were all over the country hops, seeds, vegetables, such as peas, fruit of all kinds, and if these crops were not gathered immediately they would be lost and spoiled. He denied that he was advocating the special interests of the county of Norfolk. Agricultural requirements were extremely diverse, and he asked for the concession not so much in the interests of the agriculturists, as for what he might call extensive market gardeners. He was willing to agree that the age should not be under 8 years, and the period of relaxation not more than six weeks.


said, it seemed to be the wish of the House that one of the compromises just suggested by the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir Walter Barttelot) should be accepted. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: No!] If he had to choose, he should prefer to adopt the suggestion of nine weeks rather than reduce the age. Speaking on behalf of the children, he agreed that education was important, but living was still more important. If 8 years were fixed as the limit, the Home Secretary might find that limit very much in his way next year, when he came to deal with the Factory Acts.


said, the Government were now acquainted with the feelings of the Committee with regard to this difficult matter. Of course, the earnest desire of all parties was to secure as much, instruction as possible for agricultural children; but, at the same time, it should be borne in mind that apples wanted picking, seeds sowing, and the crops gathering in, and that these operations were subject to restrictions by the influence of rain and sunshine. The evidence of Mr. Tremenheere went to show that the employment of young children in the fields, even in bad weather and during the whole of the year, was not unhealthy. Therefore, no disastrous consequences were likely to arise from allowing children to go out for six weeks. Undoubtedly there would be a considerable advantage in the 8 years' limit, and if the Home Secretary saw no difficulty in future, he should propose to proceed on the lines of the Agricultural Children Act. After considering the suggestion of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Sussex and his hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk he proposed to compromise the matter by accepting 8 years as the limit of age and retaining six weeks as the maximum duration of the employment. As the Government had made several concessions it was their turn now to ask the Committee to meet them in the same spirit.


said, he was willing to accept the compromise proposed by the noble Lord.


said, that he and others objected to a new limitation with respect to age as distinguished from that fixed under the Factory Acts, and that they should feel it their duty to go to a division against the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Norfolk. It was notorious that many bad characters were employed in hop-picking, and it was, therefore, a most undesirable employment for very young children, who could hardly fail to be demoralized by it.


reminded the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex that the compromise for which he stipulated had already been made in favour of agriculture as against manufactures, in which last employment a child could only begin at the age of 10. He hoped the noble Lord would define the duration of the employment rigidly.


pointed out that the effect of the proposed arrangement would be that very young children would be running about the lanes, getting no education, but robbing orchards. The same remarks would apply to potato-picking as to hopping.


contended against the impropriety of making such young children work in the fields. The proportion of children working in the fields who were ruptured by their labour was notoriously large, and the children often contracted diseases which were their curse for life. He was opposed to the change from 10 to 8 years, but would agree to the other part of the compromise suggested by the noble Lord.


remarked that in Scotland children were seldom employed before they were 10 years old.


said, a great hardship would be inflicted on many parents if their children were prohibited from working in the hop-picking season.


observed that during the whole of the hop-picking the schools in Kent were absolutely closed. Consequently, if anybody wished to send his children to school there would be no school for them to go to.


corroborated the hon. Member for West Kent, and asked for what purpose would these six weeks be required, when the schools were closed during hop-picking.


said, he was not prepared to vote for the 8 years' limit, which would not meet the difficulty after what had fallen from the hon. Member for West Kent. There was no law for preventing families from going down to the hop-gardens, and the parents would not know what to do with the children. The difficulty would be best met by saying nothing about the limit of age.


said, what had just fallen from the right hon. Gentleman opposite placed the Government in a peculiar position with regard to this matter. In consequence of the expressions of feeling on the part of his. Members opposite, and when the Committee appeared to have arrived at the basis of a compromise, his noble Friend the Vice President of the Council intimated his willingness to accept a compromise, and accordingly suggested 8 years as the limit of age; and now the right hon. Gentleman opposite was unwilling to assent to that suggestion.


thought he had been rather misunderstood. The hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for West Sussex had proposed two alternatives, one being eight years limit of age, and the other nine weeks duration of employment. Being very anxious to get the matter settled, he (Mr. Forster) said he could not agree to the eight years' proposal, because he thought it would be a bad precedent for the Home Secretary, but he added that he was prepared to accept the nine weeks proposal.

Question put, and negatived.

Question, "That the words 'or is otherwise necessary for the in-gathering of crops' stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.

Question proposed, That the words 'within the notice of the local authority hereinafter next mentioned (that is to say): The local authority may, if it thinks fit, issue a notice declaring the restrictions of this Act on the employment of children to be suspended, for the necessary operations of husbandry and the in-gathering of crops, for the period to be named in such notice, and during such period such restrictions shall not (save as to any proceedings commenced before the date of the notice) be of any force within the jurisdiction of such local authority; Provided, That the period or periods so named by such local authority shall not exceed in the whole six weeks between the first day of January and the thirty-first day of December in any year. The local authority shall cause a copy of every notice so issued to be sent to the overseer of every parish within its jurisdiction, and the overseers shall affix the same to the door of the principal church in the parish, and the local authority may further advertise any such notice in such manner (if any) as it may think fit,' be there inserted.


proposed to amend his Amendment by inserting after "employment of children," in line 4 of the Amendment, the words "above the age of eight years."

Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, after the word "children," in line 4, to insert the words "above the age of eight, years."—(Mr. Clare Read.)


asked whether he could propose to insert "ten" instead of "eight" in the Amendment?


replied that it was not the practice to amend an Amendment upon an Amendment, and therefore it would be necessary for the hon. Member to wait until the Report of the Bill.


said, that if the hon. Member for Birmingham wished to insert "ten" instead of "eight," all that would have to be done was to negative the insertion of "eight." The hon. Gentleman could then move to insert "ten."

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

The Committee divided:—Ayes 194; Noes 101: Majority 93.

On Motion of Sir CHARLES W. DILKE Sub-section amended by the introduction of words requiring that the notices for the purposes of the sub-section be affixed by the overseers to the door of every church and chapel in the parish.

On Motion of Lord FREDERICK CAVENDISH, Sub-section further amended by words requiring a copy of the notice to be sent to the Education Department.

Question put, That the words 'within the notice of the local authority hereinafter next mentioned (that is to say): The local authority may, if it thinks fit, issue a notice declaring the restrictions of this Act on the employment of children above the age of eight years to be suspended, for the necessary operations of husbandry and the in-gathering of crops, for the period to be named in such notice, and during such period such restrictions shall not (save as to any proceedings commenced before the date of the notice) be of any force within the jurisdiction of such local authority: Provided, That the period or periods so named by any such local authority shall not exceed in the whole six weeks between the first day of January and the thirty-first day of December in any year. The local authority shall cause a copy of every notice so issued to be sent to the Education Department and the overseer of every parish within its jurisdiction, and the overseers shall cause such notice to be affixed to the door of all churches and chapels in the parish, and the local authority may further advertise any such notice in such manner (if any) as it may think fit,' be inserted after the word 'is,' in page 4, line 32.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 255; Noes 50: Majority 205.

On Question, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill?

In reply to Sir CHARLES W. DILKE,


stated that the Bill would not prevent the employment of children who lived more than two miles from a school, as it was thought better they should be employed than that they should be kept in enforced idleness; but he hoped and believed the time was not far distant when there would be very few children who would not be within two miles of a school.


hoped that before the Report the noble Lord would consider whether he could not adopt the limit of the Act of 1870, which was three miles.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause 12 (Payment of school fees for poor parents).


moved, as an Amendment, in page 4, lines 35 and 36, to leave out "not being resident in the district of a school board." The object of the Amendment was to enable Guardians to pay fees in school board districts, and thus set parents more free to send their children to denominational schools, if they desired to do so, or if those schools happened to be nearer than board schools.


in opposing the Amendment, said he would remind the Committee that the Bill did not recast the whole of our educational system, and it would be unwise to reopen the 25th clause of the Education Act, which had been agreed to after much discussion. He trusted that the hon. Member would not press his Amendment, because if these questions were opened up again it would necessitate their going on until they met again next year.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


moved, as an Amendment, in page 4, line 38, to leave out "guardians," and insert "local authority." The clause would then include corporations.


said, that the Government attached great importance to these fees being paid only by the Guardians, the great object being to reduce such payments as much as possible. The clause followed that in the Scotch. Education Act, which, it was stated, had worked very well.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On the Motion of Mr. Birley, Amendment made, in page 4, line 40, by leaving out the words "give the parent sufficient money to."


moved, as an Amendment, in page 4, line 41, to leave out "three pence" and insert "four pence." The salaries of teachers and other expenses of schools were on the increase, and it was desirable that the children who were paid for should be on the same footing as others.


hoped the Amendment would not be pressed.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, "That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill?"


said, he should move its rejection, because the payment by the Guardians of school fees for poor parents would tend to associate the idea of pauperism with that of education in the minds of the people.


entirely concurred in the views of the hon. Member, as the provision objected to was virtually an extension of the principle of Clause 25 of the Act of 1870, which he made an effort to repeal by the Bill he brought before the House in 1874. He objected to the ratepayers being taxed for the sake of purely denominational schools.


said, that no people in the world were more independent than the Scotch, or more shy of being pauperized; but in the Scotch Education Act there was a similar clause to the one now under discussion for the payment of school fees due from poor parents. This system had been in actual operation in Scotland for several years, and had worked well.


said, parents could not be forced to pay if they had not the means to pay, and in such cases it was necessary that the school fees should be paid for them.

Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 242; Noes 49: Majority 193.

Parliamentary Grant.

Clause 13 (Special provision as to parliamentary grant to schools in poor districts), postponed.

Clause 14 (Contribution for fees of children who obtain certificates.)


said, he proposed to make two or three Amendments in the clause. The first was, that the Education Department should have the power of raising the Standard and the amount of attendance from time to time. The second was, that at the end of five years the Government of the day might, if they thought fit, by the authority of the Queen in Council, go on with this system without being obliged to come to Parliament for a new Act.

Amendments agreed to.

On Motion of Mr. Birley, Amendment made, in page 6, line 25, after "Parliament," by inserting— Such fee to include the cost of books and other requisites, and the school fees so paid to be reckoned as school pence to be met by the grant payable to the department.

On Question, "That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill?"


moved its rejection in order to afford the Committee an opportunity of considering what it really involved. The Standard to be passed in order to obtain this reward was not a very high one, and he did not think that free education was the best form of reward. His own suggestion would be that in the limited number of cases in which rewards of this kind ought to be given, they should rather take the form of assistance in a higher school. The number of attendances to be required was not large, nor was the period of attendance long.


thought that the clause would enable them to take a step in the right direction, and trusted that it would be retained. He proposed to increase the number of attendances to be required from 250 to 350; but he was obliged to begin with two years, because at present the registers were not kept for a longer period. The Standard could be raised by the revision of the Code. Exhibitions and scholarships worked well in the middle and upper classes; many hon. Members of the House had benefited by them; and he believed that for the working classes these rewards would be a step in the right direction.


did not know how it might be in the case of large urban schools, but so far as his experience went, the children who would carry off the prizes in rural schools would be precisely those who least required them—the children of mechanics, small farmers, and others, who were comparatively well-to-do people, and who could better afford to pay higher fees than could the labouring classes. If there were any probability of these prizes being carried off by the children of the labouring classes it would be well to offer them, for they would then be analogous to scholarships at the Universities, which were generally carried off by those who were not particularly wealthy. That a mechanic had a child of remarkable quickness was not a reason why that child should receive a free education. The clause proposed an experiment from which it would be difficult to withdraw, and if there were a division he should vote with the hon. Member for Hastings.


said, the clause was an important one, for there was no doubt that its immediate effect would be to give a considerable stimulus to the demand for free education. He believed that its operation would withdraw large sums from the Exchequer, and that it ought not to be adopted without full consideration. If education became as efficient as they had every reason to hope and expect it soon would be, the Standard required at the age named would be the Standard that every child of that age ought to be able to pass in, and almost immediately the children of artizans and mechanics who had been in regular attendance might be expected to pass in it. If a free education were given to such children, how could it be refused to others who were just as meritorious, though not so fortunate, and whose parents would feel the burden of education more than those who were relieved of it? He did not fear facing the result of free education, but it would not be possible to stop at elementary education, and the adoption of this clause would be the taking of a step which it would be difficult to retrace.


hoped the clause would not be pressed, because it was clearly a step in the direction of free education, to which many of them were opposed; and it would be quite enough for many hon. Members if he told them that this was the only clause of the Bill which was approved by the Birmingham League. It would assist those who were best able to pay for themselves, and it would operate chiefly in the large towns to the benefit of well-paid mechanics and artizans, at the expenee of the middle classes, who felt the pressure of the rates to the greatest extent.


concurred in the objection that the clause would inevitably lead to free education, and that it would assist parents who were able and willing to pay fees.


said, he did not share the apprehensions that the clause would make any large demands on the Exchequer, particularly if the Standard were raised, or that it would lead to free education, any more than scholarships at the public schools had done so, and, therefore, he should support the clause.


supposed the intention was not so much to relieve parents of the cost of education as to promote emulation in schools. The noble Lord the Vice President said he intended ultimately to raise the Standard, and he might always, by doing so, reduce the competitors within reasonable limits.


doubted whether the proposal would have the effect of stimulating emulation. What prizes did children of from 3 to 13 years of age principally value? Toys. Money prizes would be nugatory as to the effect upon the children, and would really give the parent a pecuniary advantage in having a child of greater natural capacity than others. That was in itself an advantage, and the assistance should rather be given to the parents of the dull children.


admitted that this was a new and somewhat bold proposal. The Committee, however, would recollect that Parliament was by the Bill introducing a very strict system of compulsion, under which parents were called upon not only to send their children to school regularly, but were subjected to a very large expenditure for this purpose. Rates were rising all over the country, and it was not the parent who wished for this law, but Parliament, which went to the parent and said—"You must do this." Hitherto there had been nothing but "driving;" but now he hoped to introduce a more healthy element, and to endeavour to excite emulation among the children. From information that came to him at the Privy Council Office, he was informed that several places were trying the experiment of free education for themselves. In Liverpool there was a society which offered a free education for children who had made full attendances, and it reported that a very high standard of regular attendance had thus been attained without any "Standard test;" that the competition for this prize beneficially affected the general regularity of the attendance; and that the honour of gaining the prizes was regarded as of special value by the parents and children. Without laying too much stress upon the precedent of the Queen's Scholarships, which gave a free education to young teachers, he would remind the House of what had occurred in regard to the great endowments of the country. For many years free education had almost been the rule in our grammar schools and old foundations. The Education Commissioners, however, agreed that free education had not been valued by parents, and that the system had broken down. The result had been that free education had been got rid of by converting the funds into exhibitions. To say, therefore, that the Government were by this clause introducing the principle of free education was untenable. As to the assertion that these prizes would be appropriated by children of the mechanics in towns, it was nothing but a part of that system of self-depreciation of the country against which he had so often protested. The fact was, according to the figures at the Education Office, that the country children attended rather better than those of towns, and they passed a rather higher Standard; so that it might with much more reason be alleged that it would be the country children who would carry away the greater part of the prizes. As to the poor children not getting these prizes, he apprehended the effect would be that children of merit who had attained the age of 10 years would be able to say to their parents—"We have got this little bursary"—as it might be called—"and we hope you will let us go on attending school, because it will be of no expense to you." The Committee were putting 10 years as the limit in this Bill, but he should be sorry for the State to be understood to express any wish that the education of children should end at 10. It would be, in fact, desirable that children should go on until 13, if the parents' circumstances allowed it. He owned he attached great importance to this proposal, which had been well received by the intelligent working classes; and with regard to free education, the Government would have the power to alter the Standard, so as to avoid any inconvenience from that cause. He trusted that the Committee would affirm the clause, which would be accepted as a boon and as a mark of the wish of Parliament to elevate the working classes.


suggested that the proposal should be limited according to the number of children in a school, so as to bring them nearer to the character of scholarships.


feared that the clause would ultimately lead to a great additional charge on the public revenue.


supported the clause. The great difficulty hitherto had been to induce children to remain sufficiently long at school, by encouraging parents to believe that the Fourth was the maximum Standard, which was no inducement for children to be kept longer at school. This proposal would give them an inducement on the part of the State, after they had passed the Fourth, to go on to a higher Standard, and the effect would be to infuse the same ambition among the whole of the children at school. He denied that these were in any sense scholarships, and he did not wish to see the number limited so as to make it in the nature of scholarships, because if they did it would reproduce the evils of the competitive examinations. The benefit of the clause was that it made the Fourth Standard part of the ordinary school work, and the Education Department could carry on the impulse to the higher education by raising the Standard still higher. The mere fact of compulsion existing in this country would render it necessary that a higher education should be given than mere reading, writing, and arithmetic according to the Fourth Standard. He hoped the noble Lord would continue to press the clause.


said, the supporters of the Bill hoped it would raise the general standard of education throughout the country; but there was a probability that this clause would have a directly contrary effect, because if it were passed the teachers throughout the country would do their best to push forward the children who were likely to get prizes, while the more stupid children would be neglected.


supported the clause for the very reason that it would give a stimulus to teachers to push their pupils forward.


said, he regarded the clause with considerable apprehension, because it was founded on a principle which was likely to be extended if it were once introduced. It was the principle of endowment to elementary schools, and he was not prepared to support it, and he hoped that as it was admittedly only an experiment, it would not be further persevered with at present. We ought to provide that every child should have a fair and sufficient education, but we had no right to take money out of the public funds for anything beyond this, unless it were proved to be absolutely necessary in the interests of the nation. He agreed with the hon. Member for Berkshire that these prizes would fall into the hands of the class which least needed them.


thought the clause was a wise and beneficial one. If a large number of children should get on too well, it would be easy to raise the Standard. He hoped the Committee would not throw out a clause which was the first boon that had been offered to the working classes.


was opposed to the clause because he believed it would prevent the good working of the schools. If there were a large number of children in a school who were to receive their education free of expense, a broad line would be drawn between those who were receiving that education free of expense and those who were paying for it, and this would engender considerable dissatisfaction, he would, therefore, vote against the clause.


upon reflection, did not think that the clause would help the people whom the noble Lord and the Government desired to assist. He intended to vote against it.

Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 166; Noes 92: Majority 74.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

It being now Seven of the clock, the House suspended its Sitting.

The House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the clock.