HC Deb 16 May 1877 vol 234 cc1016-24

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—( Captain Pim.)


on rising to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, he would not have taken the course if he could have thought that the efficiency either of the Army or the Navy was likely to be improved by the proposed legislation. Not only was he unable to see this, but further, he held that if sacrifices were to be made to secure an end which was desirable in order to promote Imperial interest, the sacrifice should be made by taxpayers in general, and should not be imposed upon the ratepayers in particular localities. He appreciated the importance of providing a good supply of well-trained boys for the Army and Navy; but he thought that Acts already upon the Statute Book were amply powerful for the purpose, if they were only put in force. Boys could easily be provided by a development of the existing system of pauper district schools. The Bill would impose considerable burdens, mainly compulsory, on the local ratepayers at the option of the justices, who would have power to mortgage the rates for the support of the schools contemplated in the Bill, thus indefinitely increasing local indebtedness, which was already too great. The general tendency of the Bill would be to provide what was a purely Imperial matter by a newly-created charge on local rates. As far as the Mercantile Marine was concerned, it was simply a private trade, and he saw no more reason why boys should be specially trained at the public charge for that than for any other trade. He therefore begged to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Phipps.)


thought there were several good points in the Bill, but he was of opinion, on the whole, that the subject was too large a one to be dealt with in an off hand manner. The present system of training boys was quite sufficient for the Army, Navy, and Mercantile Marine. He would, therefore, suggest that the matter should be referred, for inquiry, either to a Royal Commission or a Select Committee of the House. As it stood, the Bill involved the principle of conscription in an indirect form, a principle which was most repugnant to the felings of the English people. He therefore hoped the hon. and gallant Member would not press it to a division.


supported the Bill, and pointed out that it had been before the House during two or three Sessions, and had been the subject of much consideration by those persons who were engaged in the useful work of training boys for the Navy. He might remind the House that the Board of Trade had committed itself to the principle of the measure by undertaking to give material assistance in cases where voluntary offers of money were made for the establishment of training ships. He hoped, therefore, that the President of the Board of Trade would welcome such offers whenever they were made, and would recognize the patriotic motives which animated the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had charge of the Bill. It was all very well to educate boys intended for the Military or Naval Services of the country in the three R's; but they ought also, if they were to become practically useful, to be trained in the three D's—duty, drill, discipline.


said, he did not think that there could be any sound objection to the second reading of this Bill, seeing that, if it became law, its operation would still remain, under the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th clauses of the measure, in the hands of the justices, and wholly permissively under their control; leaving it for them to decide whether or not there was in the districts over which they presided a sufficient necessity for them to carry its provisions into operation, and to require the erection of schools for the training of boys for the Army, Navy, and Mercantile Marine. For his own part he could not see how in many ports of the country it could be otherwise than a very desirable thing for such schools to be founded. The Legislature had already proceeded to some extent in the direction of the principle contained in the present Bill. They had chosen years ago to say, whether rightly or wrongly, wisely or unwisely, that there should be a general education applicable to the whole of the country; and that, in order to carry out the system of education established by that Act, there should be school beards elected by the ratepayers throughout the length and breadth of the Kingdom. This being so, the Legislature had already conceded the principle on which this Bill was founded, and the measure now before the House was consequently only an endeavour to carry out with regard to the children of our seamen that which the general Act for the elementary education of the country had been doing for the rest of the community. He would ask the House—Did the children of our seamen stand in a different position from that which was occupied by the children of the rest of the community; and, if so, why should that continue to be so? Something had been recently said, and something he was glad to find was about to be done, with regard to the children of these who were employed on the canal boats of this country; and all these things showed the intention of the Legislature to provide an effective education for the children of all classes. Having said this, he could not see why this Bill should not receive a second reading, so that the House might deal with it afterwards. If there were alterations that were desirable, they might be made in Committee. The House should not forget that if this Bill became law, as he sincerely hoped it might, it would still be for the justices of the different maritime districts and counties throughout the country to say whether they thought the requirements of the neighbourhood over which they presided rendered the establishment of such schools necessary, they being the assessing bodies to aid them in providing training schools for those localities. In his opinion, if the legislation the House was asked to initiate by passing this Bill were once carried into effect, they would find that the justices of every maritime county, or, at all events, in every maritime area of three or four counties throughout the country, would be ready and willing to support the action proposed by the mea- sure, by doing what would be necessary on their parts to carry it into operation; at any rate, it was worth while trying. He should therefore give his vote most cordially for the second reading of the Bill, which he trusted would receive the assent of Her Majesty's Government, and that of the House generally.


said, that not only had the principle been conceded, but the practical application of it had been conceded also. The Bill was simply a repetition—in better phraseology, perhaps—of Acts already on the Statute Book. Why was it that maritime countries had not availed themselves of the facilities ready to their hand? They were all agreed as to the importance of keeping up a supply of well-trained boys for the Army and Navy, but the question was, whether the present Bill would achieve that end. The Industrial Schools Act enabled the authorities to contribute to the establishment of schools which came within the meaning of the Act, whether such schools were afloat or ashore. This Act had been used, no doubt, but not so extensively as it might have been. The Metropolitan Poor Act contained similar provisions. It was only recently that the Lord Mayor and a number of wealthy and benevolent individuals contributed the necessary funds for establishing a training ship upon the Thames, and it would be most mischievous to pass any measure that would interfere with voluntary efforts. By a recent statute power was given to the local authorities not only to contribute to, but actually to establish these ships. He therefore maintained that, as far as pauper children were concerned, the powers conferred by the existing Acts were amply sufficient. The Bill of the hon. and gallant Member, however, went much further than the existing statutes, and proposed to bring up children at the expense of the ratepayers to a particular trade, that of the Mercantile Marine, and he thought that such a proposition would not receive the assent of the House, for if it did, it would form a precedent for similar propositions on behalf of other trades. He fully recognized the value of the object the hon. and gallant Member had in view—that of providing trained boys for the Mercantile Navy, and he could assure him that that subject had occupied a considerable share of his own attention. He was anxious to promote that object on various grounds, not merely for the purpose of increasing the supply of mercantile seamen and of improving their quality, but in order to make that Service a more effectual feeder of the Royal Navy, to enter which should be a legitimate object of ambition to all these trained boys. He was also anxious that the number of industrial schools of all kinds should be increased, and also that the Legislature should deal with them as not being in any sense criminal establishments, but institutions provided for such children as were too poor to obtain any means of education, except at the public expense. He had made a proposal some years ago that the Mercantile Marine itself should contribute to the maintenance of these ships, and he trusted that with the aid of that very high-spirited Service, of which the country might be proud, that an increase in the number of training ships would shortly be made. The right hon. Gentlemen the Home Secretary and the First Lord of the Admiralty had expressed their willingness to afford every encouragement in their power towards the establishment of these marine schools, and the latter especially had, by the number of ships he had given for this purpose, and by the constitution of a new class of Naval Boys Reserve, given proof of his being desirous of giving material aid to this scheme. He, however, could not say on behalf of the Government that they were prepared to support this Bill. He objected to the multiplication of different kinds of schools of this class which would result from the operation of the Bill, the provisions of which he thought would be mischievous and calculated to confuse the Statute Book and deceive the public.


said, he entirely concurred in the view taken of this subject by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, and would vote against the Bill. He was glad, however, the measure had been brought forward, because he thought the discussion would have its advantages by opening people's eyes to the fact that there were already many Acts on the Statute Book on the subject which they might avail themselves of. He hoped the work done by the present training ships, the Chichester, the Arethusa, and others, would not be taken out of the hands of the charitable institutions which at present performed it, and in which work Mr. Williams figured so prominently, because he was sure that if it were, the county taxation would be increased, and the charitable feelings of those persons who supported these schools would be dried up. He believed also that justices of the peace would hesitate very much before they put in operation its expensive provisions.


said, in reply, it was most extraordinary and unprecedented to find the Government offer opposition to such a Bill as that now under consideration. It was a measure which had been long called for, and which, in relation to the mercantile objects of the great shipping interests of this country, would, if passed into an Act, prove of the greatest value. He warned the House that in the event of this country being engaged in war, unless some preliminary steps were taken to keep up the supply of British sailors for the Navy and the Mercantile Marine Service, the country would be in a most deplorable state. It was admitted that the shipping interest was deficient of a very large number of sailors, but by the provisions of his Bill the want could be supplied. The Board of Trade had said, in opposing his Bill, that they had a means of providing the expenses of obtaining the necessary amount of hands. What was the scheme of that Department? It was to apply the balance in hand of the Merchant Seamen's Marine Fund to the object. But to what extent was it proposed to provide hands for the Service? It was said that there was a deficiency of 20,000 men who were required for the Service, and it was proposed to provide means to obtain 16,000 boys. Well, to do that the balance of the Mercantile Marine Fund would be a mere drop in the ocean. He felt strongly and earnestly on this question. He had worked day and night to promote the success of a scheme which he was convinced, if adopted by the Government and the House, would prove of the greatest advantage to the merchant shipping interests of the country and of the Royal Navy. He would remind the House that 400 vessels were engaged in the grain trade, and that, owing to our defective system, most of them were manned by foreigners—Russian Fins—who, in case of war, would scuttle their ship and run them ashore. Upon the Mercantile Marine the country depended for many necessaries of life, and it was of the greatest importance that we should, in the face of existing events in the East, have true British seamen on beard our ships. He must protest against the Mercantile Marine being regarded in the same light as a mere trade. The waste of men in our Mercantile Marine was calculated at 16,000 per annum, and the country had only 16 training ships, which supplied but 1,036 men for our Navy in the last year. He considered the system of county training schools for boys for our Navy, which worked so admirably in Middlesex, most important to supply the deficiency, and that it ought to be extended. If something were not done to keep up the supply for the protection of our dependencies at home and abroad, the consequences might prove most disastrous. The operation which the Bill would also have of preventing poor children from returning from school to the criminal atmosphere surrounding their homes would be most beneficial to the community at large. In conclusion, he must say he could not understand how any hon. Member could propose the rejection of this Bill, which he trusted the House would read a second time, and alter as much as they thought necessary in Committee.


was sorry the Bill was opposed by the Government; but he, for one, was ready to support the second reading. He thought that the thanks of the community were due to the hon. and gallant Member for having introduced this measure. It had been said that legislation on the subject should be Imperial, and that a measure should be introduced by the Government; but a Bill was brought forward in a former Session to carry out the object which his hon. and gallant Friend had in view, and the Government, on that occasion, said they would bring in a Bill to deal with the matter, but from that time to this they had not taken any step in the matter. The Bill was an extension of a principle already recognized throughout the country. There were, no doubt, some objections to the Bill; but he thought they might be met. One was that ratepayers would be called upon to support what might be considered an Imperial measure; but had not that principle been sanctioned by the Education Act? Defects of detail might be remedied in Committee. Knowing the sincerity of his hon. and gallant Friend on the subject, he felt great pleasure in supporting the second reading of the Bill.


contended that the course taken by the President of the Board of Trade was in accordance with the observations of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in 1875, who then said that if such a Bill were necessary, they ought to amend the Industrial and Reformatory Schools Act. That was what he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) now felt should be done, and if it could be shown that those Acts required amendment, his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would be glad to press it forward. He, however, thought that the House would not be prepared to lay down as a rule that every local authority should be obliged to establish a training ship in each county. Under the present system they had power to do so if they chose, and he thought that was sufficient. By adopting this Bill the House would be intertering with voluntary effort, upon which reliance had been so justifiably placed, and which had produced such satisfactory results. Schools could be maintained at a far more reasonable rate by voluntary management than by that of local authorities, and that was eminently the case with regard to the existing industrial schools. For instance, the net cost of each boy in the voluntary schools in his county was £17, while that of each boy in the Middlesex school was £27. He contended that before passing this Bill the whole subject of industrial reformatory schools and training ships should be considered together. He thought that the House would run a great risk if they adopted this measure of destroying voluntary efforts; and, under these circumstances, he trusted that the hon. and gallant Gentleman would not press his Bill.


could not but say that his hon. and gallant Friend had a right to complain of the opposition offered to his Bill. His hon. and gallant Friend was sensible that it was necessary to have training schools for boys intended for the Mercantile Marine Service, and, having studied the question well, his measure was met with opposition. The principle of the Bill was admitted. Then why should the second reading of the Bill be opposed by the Government? He would suggest that his hon. and gallant Friend should withdraw the Bill, otherwise the country or those interested in the subject would be misled, as the division would be taken on a false issue. This was a question of great and, indeed, national importance, and he contended that provision should be made by law for the better training of boys for the Mercantile Marine and for the Royal Navy. The Government might have a Bill in their "pigeonhole," but why was it not brought forward?

Question put, "That the word now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 17; Noes 83: Majority 66.—(Div. List, No. 129.)

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for six months.