HC Deb 21 February 1878 vol 238 cc63-85

Order for Committee read.


in rising to move— That it he an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert provisions in the Bill for regulating the hours of labour and securing the attendance at school of children employed in agriculture, said, the question raised by the Amendment was simply, whether the House, having unanimously decided that the children employed in factories, workshops, and mines should not have their education spoiled by premature or excessive employment, was now going to make an exception, and allow children to be employed in agriculture without taking the slightest care for their education?


rose to Order. He asked whether it was germane to the Bill to raise the question which the hon. Member had done? The Bill was described "for the regulation of factories and workshops;" it consisted of 100 clauses, and there happened to be four which applied to the education of children employed in factories and workshops. The whole Bill related to factories and workshops. He therefore asked, whether the hon. Member's Motion was, in its terms, consistent with the rules of the House?


The Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney is in the form of an Instruction to the Committee. The Committee would not have power to deal with the question unless an Instruction of this kind were passed. So far as I can judge, I see no objection in point of Order to the Instruction as pro- posed to be moved by the hon. Member for Hackney.


said, he had taken great pains, before bringing forward the Motion, to ascertain whether it was strictly in Order; and he thought he should be able to show that it was most germane to the objects of the Bill. The measure proposed to take the most anxious care for the education of every child employed in any one of the thousand industries of the country, and to prevent his being employed between the ages of 10 and 13 unless he attended school 13½ hours a-week. It went on to enact that if at the age of 13 he had not attained a certain standard of education, school attendance should be enforced until the child had reached the age of 14 years. These provisions would apply even to children employed in the homes of the poor, but they did not extend to agriculture. A child employed in agriculture, if at the age of 10 he had attained the Fourth Standard in reading, writing, and elementary arithmetic, or if he had made 250 attendances during the previous year, could begin work as a full-timer, and the State then washed its hands altogether of his education What occasion was there for this distinction, and upon what ground was this line of demarcation to be drawn between agriculture and the other industries of the country? He knew that he would be answered by the statement that the measure was a sanitary one, but it was idle to contend that it was not an educational one also. If it was desirable to secure the education of children who were employed in factories and workshops, was it not equally desirable to secure the education of children engaged in agriculture during the same period? Looking upon it as a national question, no one would, he thought, for a moment contend that it was not just as important to the nation and the community that so important a branch of industry as agriculture should be administered and attended to by an educated, intelligent population, as it was for other branches of industry. It might be said that these regulations as to factories and workshops were intended for towns, while agriculture was carried on in the country. But the Bill applied to factories and workshops wherever they were situated, and there could not be a greater mistake than to suppose that they were all situated in large centres of population. In Yorkshire, in some quiet valley close to the unenclosed moor, they would find factories, and the children employed in those factories were just as much subject to the Act as those employed in Manchester or Birmingham. It was absurd, therefore, to discuss this question as if all our factories and workshops were in one part of the country and agriculture was carried on in another. He wished to show with what extraordinary inequality legislation would act both upon the labouring population themselves and also upon employers, if hon. Members permitted this Bill to pass without obtaining a guarantee that some measure would be introduced for securing the education of children employed in agriculture. If they looked at the future, they would see that the man, employed when a child in agricultural work, would find himself to a great extent ignorant; whereas his brother, because he had been employed in the factory or the workshop, and had had his schooling carefully watched over until he was 13 or 14 years of age, would be in an entirely different and improved position. He would, therefore, put it to the House whether agriculture should have this badge of inferiority placed upon it, and whether it should thus be discredited, and the priceless blessings of education denied to those who were engaged in it? But there was another aspect of the subject, to which he wished particularly to direct the attention of men of business in the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, some three or four years ago, when he brought forward his Motion for a Commission, on whose Report the present Bill was based, was most specific and urgent as to the importance of avoiding, as far as possible, different labour regulations in regard to trades and industries which competed with one another in the same market; and that doctrine was enforced the other night, with great cogency and ability, by the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Tennant), who sat behind the Government bench. Now, what would be the position, with regard to the labour market generally, if they did nothing to secure the education of children employed in agriculture? Let them take a parent, for instance, who sent his boys to agricultural labour. Those boys would become full-timers when they were 10 years of age, and the parent had no further trouble with their education. If, however, he sent them to a factory or workshop, they were bound to attend school for 13½ hours in every week until they were 13 or 14 years of age. And what would be the result of such a state of things? The natural and equitable growth of labour would be disturbed; and it would have the effect of driving an undue amount of labour into the industry which was not restricted, and deprive of a fair share of labour those which were restricted, reducing wages, in the former case, below their natural rate, and, in the latter case, placing an obstacle in the way of employers obtaining their proper share of juvenile labour. One great disadvantage would therefore result, for many industries would be subjected to specific restrictions, while agriculture would be free from those restrictions. Then it was next said by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary—"Oh, but in a matter like this, we must advance by degrees, step by step." The fact was, however, that instead of advancing by degrees, instead of going forward stop by step, the steps which the Government had been taking were distinctly steps backward. In 1873 the Agricultural Children's Act was brought forward and passed by the assistance of hon. Members opposite, and was supported by two hon. Members who were supposed to be two leading representatives of agriculture in the House—the hon. Member for South Norfolk and the hon. Member for South Leicestershire. That Act distinctly recognized the principle that children employed in agriculture should make so many school attendances in the year, up to the ago of 12 years. It was true that Act did not produce any great effect, because of its defective machinery. But it was pointed out that that machinery might be effectively improved, and the hon. Member for South Leicestershire brought forward a proposal to improve the machinery. What had been the action of the Government, however, in reference to that Act? Why, the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council, in introducing the Education Bill of 1876, actually repealed the Act without giving any explanation; and, at the present time, so far as the principles of the question were concerned, we had distinctly gone backwards. That was clearly shown from the fact that, before the repeal of the Act, children employed in agriculture and other industries were bound to make a certain number of attendances until they were 12 years of age. That was not so now, as a child could not be employed in agriculture until he was 10 years of age; and, when once employed, he need not make a single school attendance. His Motion was objected to on the ground that it would necessitate a great army of Inspectors to carry out the education of agricultural children, and that it was idle to bring such a Motion forward. But if this plea of an excessive number of Inspectors was to be urged as a reason for doing nothing for agricultural children, what would become of the plea when they came to the portion of the Bill which sanctioned interference with all the industrial homes in England, by empowering Inspectors to knock at every man's door, in order to ascertain whether the mother or the child wore making up any work from which they could possibly derive any profit? If it was intended to let the Inspectors pry into every corner in England, they would want, for the metropolis alone, five times more Inspectors than all the agricultural children in England would require. But then, perhaps, it would be said that the Commission, on whose Report the present Bill was based, did not recommend that agriculture should come within its scope. In one sense it was true they did not; but in another, they did recommend some such provision as that set forth in the Motion now proposed. They said there was sufficient evidence to show that women and young persons were not injured by agricultural work; but, with regard to children, they again and again distinctly recognized the principle that children employed in agriculture should be educated as efficiently as children employed in other industries. Perhaps it might be said that this was a difficult subject. It might be so; but what was its difficulty compared with carrying factory Inspectors into all the industrial homes of England? He submitted that the two matters were not to be compared. But, again, it had been urged with regard to the Report of the Agricultural Commission, which reported in 1869, and recommended restrictions, that the Commissioners were not agreed, and that no legislation was needed. But although Mr. Tremenhere and Mr. Tufnell did disagree in some respects, they agreed in others. But what did the Government do? They undid that which Mr. Tremenhere said ought not to have been undone, and they did that which Mr. Tufnell said ought not to have been done. Mr. Tremenhere said that a certain amount of school attendance ought to have been enforced on children employed in agriculture until they were 12 years of age, and the Act which secured that object the Government repealed; while, on the other hand, Mr. Tufnell said that of all the farces that possibly could be with regard to education, the greatest was to rely simply upon the certificate of 10 years of age—because, while it kept the stupid child out of work, it sent the clever child to work prematurely, and eliminated all high intelligence from the labouring classes. What one Commission condemned, the Government now rested upon; and the only security now left was that the child should have made so many school attendances up to 10 years of age, and then he might go to work. He might be told that this Motion was inopportune. So far as he remembered, he had never brought forward a Motion in the House which was not inopportune. Ten years ago he brought forward a Bill upon this subject. That was inopportune, and not only so, but he was severely reprimanded, and told it was a subject which the Government ought to deal with. He next took refuge in an abstract Resolution, and, of course, that was highly inopportune. He was told next to wait for the Report of the Royal Commissioners. He did wait for it, and brought forward another Resolution, and pressed for legislation. Then he was told that there would be legislation if he withdrew his Resolution, and in a moment of weakness he did withdraw it. He pressed for legislation again in 1875, when he was told how unreasonable it was to bring forward the question again, seeing that the Agricultural Children's Act had only been in operation for a few months, and that he ought to wait to see the results of that measure. He did wait, and what was the result? The Government repealed the very Act upon which they placed so much reliance, leaving nothing whatever in its stead. Last year, when again calling attention to the matter, he was told that the question was inopportune, and was referred to the Vice President of the Council. He went to the Vice President, and the answer he received was that the Government had made great efforts for the education of agricultural children, but that they had given no pledge to legislate upon the subject. He had been asked whether he would take the sense of the House on this Motion, and if he received a similar reply he certainly should do so. When this question came before the House last year, the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) tried to discover some danger which might possibly arise from the enfranchisement of the agricultural labourers. The agricultural labourers were the only great class of labourers in this country who were unrepresented; and in after life it was the agricultural labourer who alone would be able to say, that of all the great industries of the country, the State took no care of his education, and denied him the blessings arising from it. He begged to move— That it be an Instruction to the Committee, that they have power to insert provisions in the Bill for regulating the hours of labour, and securing the attendance at school of children employed in agriculture.


in seconding the Amendment, said, the speech of his hon. Friend had been so full and exhaustive that it left him little to say; but he should like, in the few remarks he had to offer, to look at the question from the farmer's point of view. It used to be supposed, not altogether falsely, that an agricultural labourer required very little knowledge and very little intellect for the labour he had to perform; but such an idea was now altogether a mistake, for what with improved labour-saving implements, and the introduction of machinery into farming, an agricultural labourer required a better general education than the artizan, who did not require so much general information. Experience now showed that the agricultural labourer who had not had some education in his youth, and had not had his intellectual faculties in some way drawn out, could not exercise that amount of thought, that amount of reasoning faculty, which was necessary to work advantageously the improved modern implements now used. One of the principal hindrances in the way of the introduction of steam in agricultural processes was, that it was impossible to find agricultural labourers sufficiently skilled to work the machines. While his hon. Friend had dwelt upon the necessity of education from the children's point of view, and from that of the general public interest, he insisted on the necessity of their education in the interest of the farmers themselves. He was very happy to believe that the compulsory provisions contemplated would not be required in Scotland. If children under 13 were employed there at all in agriculture, they were not required for more than two months of the year, the time being divided into one month at harvest, a fortnight at potato planting, and a fortnight at potato gathering. In England they might add to this a month for weeding, and another month for gathering fruit. There would still be eight months in the year during which children ought not properly to be employed on farms, and during which they might comply with the provisions of the Factory Acts, and obtain education by means of the agencies now in force. In Scotland, however, he was glad to say parents vied with each other in endeavouring to give children the best education in their power, and it would be thought derogatory even for an agricultural labourer to send his children out to work at the tender age customary in England. Speaking not only from his own experience, but from the experience of large farmers in his constituency, he said, with very considerable confidence, that it was very little profit or advantage, indeed, to employ juvenile labour upon a farm. In proof of this, one illustration of the effect of premature employment of labour upon farms would be, perhaps, of more effect than any argument which he could use. The hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read), who had given much of his personal attention to this subject, made with him a few years ago a comparison as to the cost of wages on their respective farms in Norfolk and Aberdeenshire. Twelve months later, his hon. Friend having occasion to address a body of agricultural labourers, referred to the two farms, which he conceived should require about the same amount of manual labour. Yet the labour bill on the Aberdeenshire farm was only £510, while that on the Norfolk farm was £800. Therefore the hon. Gentleman came, he said, reluctantly to the conclusion that the highly paid Scotch hind was a cheaper and better man than the Norfolk labourer. In his statement his hon. Friend omitted one very significant point, that in Norfolk he paid 14s. a-week all the year round, while in Aberdeenshire he [Mr. J. W. Barclay) paid his labourers 20s. a-week each. While they had on both farms an equal amount of labour done, and he (Mr. J. W. Barclay) paid nearly 50 per cent more wages to each man than his hon. Friend, yet the labour of his farm cost 30 per cent less than the labour on his hon. Friend's farm. What was the explanation of such an anomaly? The only explanation which he (Mr. J. W. Barclay) could conceive, and he knew the circumstances pretty well, was this—that those children who were sent so soon afield became stunted men, who had neither the physical strength, energy, nor spirit to do a fair day's work; and the farmers of England, by putting the children to work so early as they did, were doing a great injury to themselves by greatly enhancing the future cost of labour. If this were not the explanation of the facts he had mentioned, he should be glad to have any others. It seemed to him that they had hero conclusive proof of the injudicious-ness and unwisdom of the English farmer in turning little children so early afield. Instead of being educated and working a few months in summer, the children wore exposed in the cold days of winter to hard labour, and grew up to be stunted men in after years, from whom the farmers could not get a fair day's work. In this view of the case, he thought it would be doing a great service to the farmers of England, indeed, if the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would use a moderate pressure—he hoped only moderate pressure would be required—to induce them to put their children to school for the period from 10 to 12, if not to 13, years of age. If this were done, they might hope in a few years to have a supply of labourers far superior in physical strength, and with also that superiority in education which was required now-a-days, to meet the exigencies of modern British agriculture.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it be an Instruction to the Committee, that they have power to insert provisions in the Bill for regulating the hours of labour and securing the attendance at school of children employed in agriculture."—(Mr. Fawcett.)


declined to enter into a discussion as to the physical condition of agricultural labourers in different parts of the country, believing such a question to be quite irrelevant to the principle of the Bill. Neither did the Amendment appear to him to be germane to a measure which dealt incidentally with the question of education, for only four clauses out of 100 composing the Bill had reference to that subject. But as the House had heard the speech of the hon. Member for Hackney, he would in reply state a few facts to demonstrate the erroneous view that hon. Gentleman had taken on this and several other occasions when discussing the subject of education in the agricultural districts. The hon. Gentleman had made serious charges in reference to education in rural places, and had stated on one occasion that nothing had been done, nothing was being done, and nothing would be done for the education of children employed in agriculture; but he would show that under the provisions of the Act of 1876 as much was being done for them as for children engaged in any other occupation. Under the Education Act no child, whether employed in agriculture or in factories or workshops, could be set to work until he was over 10 years of age, and then he must have passed certain Standards, or have made a sufficient number of attendances, which became higher each year until 1881. In the year 1876 the Vice President of the Council of Education (Viscount Sandon) introduced a measure which subsequently became law, and which gave parishes all over the Kingdom through the Boards of Guardians very large powers to extend the restrictions of the Education Act to children between the ages of 10 and 13 years; and no doubt he should astonish the House by stating that under the Act of 1876, which only came into practical operation last May—for the election of School Committees took place in April—bye-laws had been submitted to and sanctioned by the Department which would embrace in their operation no less than 500,000 children in Lincoln- shire, Devonshire, and other agricultural counties. The effect of those bye-laws was that no child under 13 should be allowed to work unless he had passed a certain Standard, and had made a certain number of attendances, and unless he had passed a still higher Standard he could only be employed as a half-timer. This he considered was a most extraordinary effort on the part of one particular class of the community to give to the children who worked for them the benefit of educational privileges, and it was very hard under such circumstances that those interested in agriculture should be taunted by the hon. Member with having done nothing, and having no inclination to do anything for the the educational benefit of the children they employed. It would be impossible to include agricultural children within the operation of the Bill with any practical advantage to the children themselves, and they could not be employed under the same conditions as children engaged in factories or workshops.


said, he was sorry to interrupt his hon. Friend, but he had distinctly guarded himself against proposing that they should be placed under the same regulations. The plan he advocated was that there should be throughout the year a certain number of school attendances; but he never said anything about the half-time, the alternate day, or the alternate week system.


was very glad to hear the hon. Gentleman's explanation, because he saw he was quite on all fours with him in reference to that particular point. He had assumed that the hon. Gentleman had taken a contrary view, which he knew to be impracticable. The bye-laws contemplated that children employed between the ages of 10 and 14 should make, say, 150 attendances during the year, but not necessarily on alternate days or weeks. As in other countries, advantage must be taken of given periods of the year to get through certain agricultural work, and during the remainder of the year children could make up the requisite number of attendances. He hoped that after his statement the Amendment would not be pressed, as it would discourage the efforts of those who wore engaged in putting the present law into operation, and impede the progress of a measure having a different object in view.


also opposed the Amendment, because he objected to its principle being embodied in a Factory and Workshops Bill. The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney) had referred to the extent to which the bye-laws were being put in force in the southern parts of the country, and he could testify to the pains which were being taken in the North to get agricultural children to school. The hon. Member for Hackney had laid stress upon the fact that he had often been laughed at for bringing forward inopportune Motions; but the House would surely agree that this was no time to raise such a question. Allusion had been made to the number of Inspectors who would be required to get the children into school; but however many they had it would be impossible to compel the attendance of agricultural children at school during all seasons of the year. It had been said that children need only be absent from school during the times of harvesting and potato gathering and planting; but in Scotland there were other seasons when the services of children on the land were highly necessary. Turnip hoeing, for example, was a most important operation in the South of Scotland; and if it were performed hastily, and without sufficient care and attention, the damage and destruction to the crops would be so great in some months of the year that the face of the whole country would be set against education, and it would be impossible to carry out efficiently the provisions of the law. Parents in Scotland were very diligent in sending children to school for eight or nine months during the year. All the farmers had an interest in attaining that end, and many of them were members of school boards; and it was only when the real stress of work came that farmers had no hesitation in employing children in the fields. There was such a great difference between the circumstances under which children were employed in manufactures and in agriculture, that he hoped the Government would not consent to have provisions relating to both jumbled up together in one Bill. A manufacturer had many more children to pick and choose from than a farmer, and could obtain a sufficient number of extra hands under the pressure of a large order; whereas farmers had to get what hands they could, often in a sparsely-populated country, or without them loose their crops. Again, a manufacturer, in the execution of a large foreign order, was independent of the weather; but unless a farmer took advantage of the fine days to gather his crops he must suffer severely. The hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) had drawn a picture of the great advantages to be found in the higher wages paid in the North, as compared with the results obtained by paying a lower scale of wages in the South; and. had urged, somewhat curiously, that because agricultural children in the South might be stunted in their educational training, they turned out inferior in physique to those in the North; but it was unfair to attribute so much to education—as other causes, such as difference in race and character, must have an effect on the development of the Northern and Southern peasantry. As the Amendment was inopportune in a Bill of the kind, and would satisfy neither employers nor employed, he trusted the Government would not assent to it.


wished to say that the hon. Member for Hackney had not desired that this question should be dealt with in the Bill, but that the Government should give some assurance that the matter should be legislated upon during the Session in some way or other. The hon. Member had laid down no mode in which his Resolution should be carried out, so that the matter was quite open. He was glad to hear the statement of the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney) that 500,000 of agricultural children had been brought under the Education Acts; earnestly he wished that he would be able soon to say that all were being educated; but he saw no reason why they should not have applied to them the compulsory laws which already related to children employed in factories and mines. He supported the Amendment.


said, certain hon. Gentlemen were very fond of saying hard things against farmers, in the same way as others were never tired of attacking the Clergy of the Church of England; but, judging from what he had seen in the part of Surrey where he resided, none were more anxious than the farmers and Boards of Guardians to see the children employed in agriculture educated. Bye-laws had been passed, by means of which they hoped to catch every child in the district; and he, amongst others, had received a Question Paper under the Elementary Education Act, asking for particulars as to the names, ages, and instruction given to his own children. The views of many farmers of Sussex and Surrey, expressed while the Education Acts were under discussion, were that children employed in agriculture should be educated; but that it was undesirable to go too far at first, and that it should be seen how a tentative measure worked before it was sought to pass more stringent enactments. He held this view, and hoped the country would not be inundated with Inspectors if it could be avoided. It would not be possible, if the Amendment were carried, to deal with agricultural children under such a Bill as that before the House. The hon. Member for Forfarshire had argued that because labourers were not educated so highly in the South as in the North, they were inferior; but it must be remembered that long before labourers in England had been educated at all, farmers said they got more work out of them, and that they were better men than they were at the present time. There was a great deal of juvenile labour employed in the South, and the difficulty was to get enough of it, on account of the obstacles thrown in the way by education. He trusted, therefore, that no more stringent measures would be put upon the farmers for the present, and that the Act of 1876 would be allowed to be in operation a few years longer before it was sought to harass one of the greatest industries of the country.


said, he should be very sorry to see this discussion degenerate into vapid declamation against farmers, or any other class. His desire was that education should make progress in this country; and he was bound to recognize what had been done by the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) and the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) in the Bill which they introduced three or four years ago. Really that Bill was a great improvement upon any former measure for the education of children employed in factories. It placed all children engaged in workshops under the provisions of the Act of 1874. No child could be employed till he was 12 years old; he might then work on half-time until he was 13; and then, if he passed a Standard fixed by the Education Department for the time being, he might continue as a half-timer until he was 14. That was a very stringent and a very proper change in the Act, in his opinion. He asked the House to consider what would be in future the position of the agricultural districts and of the manufacturing districts. He agreed that they could not have a "hard-and-fast-line" which would be applicable alike to both. The two cases were utterly dissimilar. They could not send a child to school for five half-days in the week all the year round in the agricultural districts as they could do in the case of children employed in factories. But they might avail themselves of the winter months. How was it proposed to do this? There was nothing to enable them to do it, either in this Bill, or in the Education Act of 1876.


interposing, remarked that that Act empowered the Guardians to pass bye-laws.


observed that that power was permissive, and not compulsory. Their legislation on this subject had been of a piecemeal kind. What was wanted was not a body of Inspectors to see how many children were employed on a farm and how many days they attended school; but some moans of laying down that every child who was employed in agriculture should have a certain amount of education. In that respect the Act of 1876 was most defective. He was prepared to support the present Bill in nearly all its principles and in its general application. But if they enacted that a child employed in manufactories should not go to work until he was 12 years old, and that he should continue to be a "half-timer" until he was 14, what an inducement they would give to parents, in places where the two industries were going on side by side, to find agricultural employment for their children. Why should they not have something like equality in this respect? The principle had been applied to agriculture in Scotland, and the same thing ought to be done in this country. Every Scotch child went to school until he was 13 years of ago. He appealed to the House whether they ought not to do something to remedy the existing state of things. The Factory Acts had a double object, as far as children were con- cerned. One object was sanitary; the other, educational. He admitted that a child employed in agricultural pursuits did not require so much care to be taken of his health as a child employed in a factory; but surely the former ought to have as much education as the latter? Why should not the House resolve that all British children should have the same education whether their parents were artizans or agricultural labourers? The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney) had made a very large concession when he said that suitable times would be accepted. But were the Government going to advise that? If not, they were simply giving a premium to the parent in a manufacturing village to send his boy from 10 to 14 years of age to work full-time at agriculture, and afterwards to bring him back to work in a factory when he was 14. Was not this a natural consequence of making a distinction between the two branches of industry? It was said that the proposal of the hon. Member for Hackney was inopportune. Well, it always was inopportune. When the Education Act was introduced, this subject was said to be inopportune; and now that the labour question was under discussion, it was said that this subject must be dealt with in a separate Act. As long as it was dealt with effectively in some way or another, no one would have a right to complain, whereas if it were not dealt with at all, everybody would have good grounds of complaint. He thought they ought to apply to agriculture this lever, which had worked so well in manufactures, and to provide that children employed in agriculture should be educated as well as those who worked in factories.


was much obliged to his hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire for having made the statement with regard to the wages paid to Scotch labourers as compared with the wages paid in England. That statement showed that in England the farmers did not pay so miserable a pittance for labour as many hon. Gentlemen opposite supposed. The hon. Member for Forfarshire had quoted from a statement which he had made. He, however, was speaking on that occasion of the winter time, when the wages of an agricultural labourer in Norfolk were 14s. a-week; but if they were to extend over the whole year, the harvest wages, piecework, and extra time during the summer, the Norfolk labourer would receive quite 3s. a-week more than he was receiving in the winter. The worst of it was, that somehow or other these subjects were so complicated that we could not quite unravel them. Those who spoke of the cheapness with which farms were managed in Scotland never stated, by any chance, how many women were employed on the land. Generally speaking, when he had been upon a Scotch farm, he had seen two women to one man. On an English farm, on the contrary, there were 10 men to one or two women, and the latter wore employed chiefly in the summer months. It struck him that it was quite as well to see a strong boy of 11 or 12 years of age working on a farm, as it was to see women employed in some of the operations of agriculture, in the way he had seen them employed in Scotland. The hon. Member for Forfarshire imagined that the physique of boys was better developed in Scotland than in England. Perhaps the abundance of milk might have something to do with that, for in Scotland there was a great deal of milk compared with the small quantity which was to be found on the arable lands of England. It had been said it was necessary that a labourer should be well educated in order that he might understand machinery. To that argument he would reply, that it was wonderful to see how well many an ordinary agricultural labourer could manage an intricate steam-engine. For his own part, he believed that if a man had not a mechanical genius within him, no amount of education could knock it into him. He would appeal to the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) to let the agriculturists alone for a time. It was only last May that the new Act came into force, and the provisions of that measure would increase in stringency very considerably during the next four or five years, until the year 1881. If at that date it was found not to be stringent enough, by all means let hon. Gentlemen opposite move still more stringent clauses. His hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield said that there were now only moderate restrictions on agricultural children, and that the Legislature did not insist on their having so much education as children employed in workshops and factories wore compelled to receive. He would remind the House, however, that this kind of legislation had been going on for factory operatives during 30 or 40 years, whereas no restriction had been placed on the employment of agricultural children until the passing of the Act introduced by his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire.


said, the largest proportion of operatives—namely, those employed in workshops, were not brought within the scope of the law until the year 1867.


went on to remark that that was 10 or 11 years ago, and that the Act in question was passed by the Gentlemen who now occupied the Treasury benches. In Scotland, it should be remembered, a good system of education was established throughout the length and breadth of the country 300 years ago. Indeed, in the rural districts of Scotland, it had always been the pride and boast of the inhabitants that their agricultural labourers were well educated. Under all the circumstances, he appealed to hon. Gentlemen opposite to give the agricultural interest a little time to recover from the severe restrictions already placed upon them—and, in 1881, if they should be found insufficient, he should be happy to increase their stringency.


thought the hallucination under which hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to be labouring, with regard to the effect of the Education Acts on agricultural labourers' children, was most extraordinary. It was incorrect to say that these Acts were not compulsory, for in point of fact they were compulsory in the highest degree. A farmer could not employ a boy under 10 years of age, and it was made penal to employ a boy at a later age, unless he had an educational certificate. What could be more compulsory than that? In some parts of his own county children could not be obtained at all to work on farms owing to the regulations which obliged them to go to school. To make the existing law more stringent would be equivalent to driving agriculturists to the Scotch and Welsh system of employing women in agriculture if they could be obtained. He knew one case in his own county where children could not be procured to drive manure carts, and women were accordingly employed for the purpose. He hoped the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) would not be pressed to a division. Referring to the statements of the hon. Member for Forfarshire, he said he thought that it would be found that labourers were quite as good in England as in Scotland, and that they were quite as dear. There was no doubt that if more restrictions were insisted upon in this country they would drive the farmers to despair.


said, he should be unable to support the Instruction which his hon. Friend had moved, although, at the same time, he agreed with many of his hon. Friend's arguments. For example, he admitted that uniformity was of great importance. No one could doubt that it was equally important that children should be well educated, whether they were employed in workshops or in agricultural labour. In his opinion, they ought to have free trade in labour, and none of those bounties which were at present given to certain kinds of employment. The present measure, however, was a Consolidation Bill, based to a great extent on the Report of a Royal Commission, of which he had the honour of being a Member. The task imposed upon the Commissioners was a most difficult one. Among other things, they had to consider how far the Factories and Workshops Acts could be made applicable to agriculture. The Commissioners reported against such an extension of the provisions of the Acts. They were prepared to vote whatever sums of money were necessary for a very large staff of Inspectors; but it seemed to them that the object desired could be attained much better by means of bodies like school boards, which they hoped soon to see established throughout the country. It was with that view that the Commissioners recommended that the laws relating to the employment of children should be assimilated in the matter of compulsory attendance and non-employment up to the age of 10 years; and that between the ages of 10 and 14 some system of half-time—he did not say whether it should be half-days or what—should be applied to all employments. At the time that the Elementary Education Act of 1876 was before the House, he (Lord Frederick Cavendish), in common with many others who felt with him on the subject, urged that these recommendations should be adopted. But he was sorry to say they were defeated, and another plan was adopted by a very large majority. That having been done, and the plan which was adopted only having come into force in last May, he thought it was impossible to suppose that the House would now reverse the former decision deliberately arrived at by a very large majority in 1876. He could not think that the House having done that, would like now to call on the Government, in a Bill which was mainly a Consolidation Bill, to jeopardize that measure by the introduction of the complex machinery which would be necessary to carry out the wishes of the hon. Member for Hackney, and to attain an object which, in 1876, it was contended that it would not reach. He wished to say one word in respect to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella.) He said in that Consolidation Bill they were making the laws respecting the employment of children much more stringent. But that which the hon. Member thought was now introduced for the first time, was really proposed in the Elementary Education Act of 1876. And he (Lord Frederick Cavendish) thought if there was a Member of that House who would be well acquainted with the whole details of that matter, it would be the hon. Member for Sheffield. However, in conclusion, he trusted that before long they would see the principle of assimilation carried further, and compulsory attendance up to 10 years of age, and half-time in some form up to the age of 14.


said, he agreed so much with what had fallen from the noble Lord opposite (Lord Frederick Cavendish), that he did not think it would be necessary to trouble the House with more than a very few words. He heartily appreciated the motives of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) in bringing forward the Motion; but he agreed with the noble Lord that to carry out the wishes of the hon. Member would be beyond the powers of the staff of Inspectors they contemplated appointing, and that the whole question was outside the principles of the Bill. He thought they might take it for granted that inquiries had already been made on that subject, and the conclusions of the Royal Commission made it quite clear that, as far as the health of agricultural children was concerned, nothing was wanting. As far as their social condition was concerned, that practically was met, when required, by the Agricultural Gangs Act—which set out that those matters ought to be regulated very much more by provisions concerning age, sex, the distance the children had to walk, and other matters, than by any other means, and that that must be carried out locally, and not by any central inspection. Then, practically, the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney went purely to the question of education, and he joined with the hon. Gentleman very much in the wish that in process of time those children should have the best education that was to be obtained in the country. But when the hon. Gentleman said that they must place those children at once on the same footing as the children under the Factory Acts, he (Mr. Cross) must ask him to remember the whole system on which the Factory Acts were based. No one imagined that the Factory Acts were not of gradual growth; and it was only by a gradual improvement in the education, and in the laws respecting education, that they could, without inflicting the greatest possible injuries on the industries with which they were dealing, bring it up to the necessary standard. The noble Lord (Lord Frederick Cavendish) would, he was quite sure, bear him out when he said that although it was quite true that they did not recommend that agriculture should be included in the Bill, they made certain recommendations which they thought should be carried out. But the noble Lord had not the advantage at that time of the discussions which took place during the passing of the Elementary Education Act of 1876, and that Act was passed since the issue of the Report of the Commission. This seemed to him to make a very great difference. That Act had really only been in operation a very short time, and he thought a large majority of hon. Members would agree with him when he said that time ought to be given for seeing the effect of the Act. They hoped, that as people became accustomed to the working of the Act, they would themselves see the advantages of education, and would be the first to promote a system which, if forced upon them, they might feel inclined to resist. He might say, before sitting down, that the Education Act was really working even very much better than had been stated. He had, from the very highest authority, a few facts which he should like to quote to the House. Taking the population of England and Wales at 23,700,000, there was a total attendance, under the school attendance committees, of over 1,000,000; under school boards, 11,597,000; making a total of 12,679,000—while 2,500,000 more might be added, who would be brought under schemes at present before the Education Department, and that brought the number of those practically under the operation of that Act to over 15,000,000 out of 22,000,000. That was certainly saying a good deal. He ought also to call the attention of the House to the model bye-laws which were issued by the Education Department, and which affected that particular part of the question; because those bye-laws, which, he understood, were being very generally adopted throughout the country, contained the minimum requirements of the Education Department. One of these provisions was that a child between the ages of 10 and 13 should not be required to attend school if the child had received a certificate from one of Her Majesty's Inspectors proving that he had reached the Fifth Standard. That, he thought, showed that there was a great and growing anxiety in the country to put those bye-laws into operation, while the Education Department had not been slack in trying to raise the standard of education. That being so, he did hope that hon. Members would allow the Act to work for a few more years, as it really could not yet be said to be in full operation, before they attempted to disturb it by fresh legislation. He could not conceive that the terrible picture which had been drawn by the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay) of the difference between one child which attended school between the ages of 10 and 13, and another that did not, could be an accurate one. He could not say that the proposal of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) would be fatal to the Bill; but it would cause so much delay and inconvenience, and would also raise so much opposition to it, that he was quite certain it would be almost impossible to pass it. He quite agreed with the noble Lord who had just sat down (Lord Frederick Cavendish), that the best way to promote education was not by Inspectors under the control of the Secretary of State, but through the school boards and school attendance committees throughout the country. He believed those bodies were doing their duty, and that they would carry into effect before long all that the hon. Member for Hackney wished. He therefore trusted the House would now allow them to go into Committee.


said, that although he had no right to reply, the House would perhaps allow him to make one observation. He did not propose to bring children employed in agriculture under the same provisions as children employed in factories; but what he wanted was to bring them under educational provisions similar to these new provisions, which, by that Bill, would be applied to every child in England working in his own home. On that point he had received no assurance from the Home Secretary, who only said they must rest satisfied with the working of the Act of 1876.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 93; Noes 208: Majority 115.—(Div. List, No. 23.)

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)


Clause 1 (Short title) agreed to.

Clause 2 (Commencement of Act) agreed to.

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