HC Deb 20 March 1879 vol 244 cc1321-35

(1.) £350, Wreck Commission.

(2.) £19,723, County Courts.

(3.) £426, Metropolitan Police.

(4.) £3,500, County Prisons, &c., Great Britain.


hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, or the Under Secretary, would be able to say what progress was being made in remedying the present defective arrangements as to the appointment of Catholic Chaplains to all prisons. He (Mr. Sullivan) moved the other day for a Return showing what prisons in this country, having 50 Catholic prisoners and upwards, had Catholic Chaplains attached to them. Unfortunately, at the present moment, he had not that information in his possession, and he had not the remotest idea of proposing that this Vote should be postponed on that account, although he thought that if he had to make that application, it would not be an unreasonable one. He should like the Under Secretary to be able to state, as far as he knew at present, what would be the answer contained in the Return he (Mr. Sullivan) had moved for. In Ireland, if there were even five prisoners belonging to the Dissenting or Church of England denomination there was a Chaplain of their particular persuasion attached to the prison in which they were confined. In no part of Ireland was such a thing known as a prison being without a Chaplain of the various religious denominations. In England that was not so, for there were many prisons in England in which there were upwards of 50 Catholic prisoners, to which no salary was provided for a Catholic Chaplain, if he was correctly informed. He had had to do with the government of prisons in which they had not even one Dissenter or Presbyterian for over three months together; nevertheless, at the end of every half-year that he sat as a member of that governing board he voted in favour of a salary for a Presbyterian Chaplain for those prisons. He thought it very hard when he crossed the Channel that he should find that the same measure of justice was not meted out to his coreligionists. He did not wish to raise a lengthy discussion upon the question at the present time, because he hoped he should have the opportunity of raising the question at a subsequent period. But he did feel that Her Majesty's Government should endeavour to provide that the same measure of justice should be meted out on each side of the Channel. If he was correctly informed, there were many prisons throughout the country in which there was no religious equality, and where there was no due regard for the conscientious convictions of one section of the prisoners.


could not give the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Sullivan) the figures he required respecting the number of Catholic Chaplains attached to the prisons of the country. The subject, however, had received the careful consideration of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and he believed he was right in saying that some recommendation had, within the past few days, been made to the Treasury in the matter. He hoped that when the Vote came on for the ensuing year, both the Return asked for by the hon. and learned Gentleman and a proposal with regard to the appointment of Catholic Chaplains would be in the possession of the House.

Vote agreed to.

(5.) £8,004, Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Great Britain.


wished to call the attention of the Under Secretary to the Treasury, and of the House, to a remarkable difference in the treatment, and, consequently, in the Estimates, with regard to the industrial and reformatory schools in Ireland and in England. The question might very opportunely be raised on this Supplementary Estimate. The Acts of Parliament in both countries—in fact, in the three countries of England, Ireland, and Scotland—were alike, for they stated that the "Treasury may grant such sums to these institutions as they shall approve." The words, of course, were the same in all similar cases—"the Treasury may," and those words were generally understood, as pointed out by the Chief Justice in Court the other day, in general cases to be obligatory, except there be reason for the contrary. In the Acts of Parliament there was no limitation as to the number of children that should be placed in reformatory or industrial schools; but the magistrates or the other committing authorities, in the exercise of their own discretion, committed children to such schools, and then the payment for such children upon a regulated scale became practically obligatory upon the Treasury. Consequently, the Treasury made an estimate as to the number of children that was likely to be committed annually, and then came down with a proposal that a certain sum should be voted towards the expenses of the schools. If it turned out, as it had done this year, that the sum taken was insufficient—that the number of children committed was larger than was expected, a Supplementary Estimate such as the present was taken. What had been the course pursued in Ireland? He at once wished to state frankly what he knew to be the real meaning of it. It was considered that the number of children committed to industrial and reformatory schools in Ireland was increasing very largely. Certainly, there was an increase, and there was also an increase in England; and it was stated by the Gentlemen representing the Irish Government that an increased amount would be required to be voted. It was then considered how the number of children could be checked. The Government had no power to interfere with the discretion of the magistrates in committing children to the schools, but another course was found. It was determined not to allow any more children to be committed to industrial and reformatory schools, and the course was taken of refusing to certify any additional schools, or any additional accommodation, unless the Government wished to apply to Parliament for a corresponding increase in the amount of the Vote. The consequence was, that he put a series of Questions to the Chief Secretary for Ireland last year, and, in the shape of replies, obtained a good deal of useful information. Unfortunately, he had not got those answers in his possession at the present time, for he had not expected that this Vote would be taken to-night; but it was perfectly clear from those answers, that an Inspector would not certify a school unless the Government approved that some additional accommodation should be certified. The result of the present state of affairs had been that the number of children committed to industrial and reformatory schools in Ireland was, what he ventured to call, arbitrarily limited, while it was not so in England. That was a matter which required explanation at the hands of the Government. He always wished to be perfectly frank with the House, and, therefore, never concealed any knowledge he had in his possession. He wished at once to say that there was something, as there generally was, to be said on the other side. The fact was this—The rate of payment for children, which was originally fixed upon by the Treasury to be paid in England, was 5s. per head, per week. The same rate was subsequently fixed upon for Ireland. When the number was found to be largely increasing in England, and it was considered doubtful whether Parliament would be willing to meet so large a demand, Parliament agreed to reduce the rate, he thought, to 3s. 6d. per head per week. Then the question arose, whether the action of the Treasury should be the same in Ireland as in England, and whether a similar reduction should take place? He did not exactly know what the decision had been. He rather thought that in England the case stood thus—That children committed previous to the reduction were still paid at the rate of 5s. per head, and that recent committals were paid at the rate of 3s. 6d. per head. Whether such applied to Ireland he did not know. He believed that the rate there continued at 5s., and that this was given as a reason why a different system was applied in Ireland than in England. Whatever might be the opinion of others, he at once frankly argued that it was not a sound or constitutional principle to act upon. He did not say now that the rate in Ireland should be reduced, because it had been reduced in England; but he did say that it was an unsound and unconstitutional doctrine that it should depend upon the discretion of the Government whether an Act of Parliament was to be put in force so that a totally different system should be applied in Ireland to England. He wished to point out to hon. Gentlemen the objection to such a system prevailing. It ended—whatever were the good intentions of the Government—it ended in the objectional form of personal government. New schools were not to be certified, and no new children admitted, unless the consent of the Government, in a formal and regular manner, was previously obtained—unless the consent of the Irish Government, or, in other words, that of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, was obtained. What did this lead to? If in England an industrial school was desired, the parties came forward and the money was supplied. In Ireland it was a matter of favour. Persons came up from the locality to urge upon the authorities the necessity of establishing a school in the district from which they came. He did not say that political influence had anything to do with it, but, as a matter of fact, Members of Parliament were asked to exert themselves; and it became a question of personal influence whether such a school was to be sanctioned or not. He thought English Members would sympathize with him when he said that this was not the way an Act of Parliament should be administered. A rule should be laid down which should apply impartially, and the same system should be put in force in the two countries. What he wished the Secretary to the Treasury to tell him was, whether, in substance, what he had stated was correct; and, if so, whether it was by the direction of the Treasury, or by that of the Lord Lieutenant, or, in fact, by whose direction it was that a different system was applied in Ireland to that in England?


admitted that the distinction, which the hon. Member (Mr. O'Reilly) had pointed out, did, in the main, exist between the mode of dealing with industrial schools in this country and in Ireland. The payments to industrial schools in this country, previous to 1872, were laid in the following rates:—For children from 6to 10 years of age, 3s. per head per week was paid; for children from 10 to 15 years, 5s. per head per week; and then for any children over 15 years of age, if they had been four years in the school, there was payment made at the reduced rate of 3s. per head per week. After 1872, the middle payment was reduced, as the hon. Member had stated, from 5s. to 3s. 6d.; and at the present moment the rates of payment were 3s. for the first class of children, 3s. 6d. for the second class, and 3s. as before for those over 15, years, having been in the school four years. Now, with regard to Ireland, there was no distinction made between the different classes of children, for each child certified as in the school was paid for at the rate of 5s. per head per week. A difference, however, existed in the mode of receiving applications for the establishment of industrial schools. In England the voluntary effort was very general, and in most cases local effort started those schools. An application for a new school must be made to the Treasury. An Inspector of the Home Office was sent down to the district from whence the application proceeded, and his duty was to certify as to the efficiency of the proposed school, and upon that the Government contribution was paid according to the usual rate. In respect to Ireland, where the amount was larger, a very different system prevailed. In that country, up to the present time, it had been the practice for each school to be sanctioned only on the authority of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, with the consent of the Treasury, and he could only imagine that the power was reserved in order to limit the number of children. As to the limitation of the number of schools, the effect of the reduction in the rate of payment in England had practically been to check the increase of industrial schools, and for several years after 1872, the hon. Member (Mr. O'Reilly) would find that the increase of these schools was practically nil. The practical result in both countries was about the same; the reduction in the contribution for children between 10 and 15 years of age having checked the increase in the number of industrial schools in England in pretty much the same way as the official veto in Ireland. He confessed that, individually, he would like to see the industrial schools in the two countries placed on the same basis. He believed that the object of these industrial schools being a reduction of our criminal population especially, it was undesirable on the part of Parliament to throw undue impediments in the way of the establishments of such schools whenever there was a proper demand for them. At the same time, he must point out that they found that they did not always get that class of children who were certainly fit and proper subjects for them. It had been a little too much the practice, especially since school boards had been established, to treat almost all children as waifs and strays, and send them to industrial schools. In England there was always an endeavour to see that the State assistance was properly supplemented by local effort. Local effort was a good criterion of the necessity of such establishments, and when it came in in sufficient amount it showed that the locality was properly exerting itself in the interest of the reformation of these children, and the result was very salutary. He should be glad to consider with his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland any proposal for placing the industrial schools in Ireland on the same footing as they were treated in the sister country. At the same time, he believed that the State had already undertaken sufficient obligation in respect to these institutions. If local effort accomplished as much, proportionately speaking, in Ireland as in England, he should see no reason for the limitation of which the hon. Member complained.


observed, that if the result of the hon. Member's (Mr. O'Reilly's) intervention in the matter was the assimilation of the system adopted in respect to industrial schools in the two countries, he hoped that great care would be taken that encouragement would not be given to a certain class of persons to have their children educated at the expense of the public. In many places, he saw that this practice had been carried out very extensively, and it had proved dangerous to the country and to society. A great deal of interest was excited on this subject, and in Belfast complaints had been very properly made concerning the course taken by some people. He recommended that the grants should not be such as to iuduce people to cause their children to be sent to industrial and reformatory schools, so that they might receive their education at the expense of the public.


wished to say a word or two as to the arbitrary manner in which this money was given or withheld by the Irish Goverment. He remembered on one occasion when a boy was ordered to be sent to an industrial school there was not to be found a single school in Ireland to take him in. The Government money was exhausted, and the schools could take no more children. On the one hand, there were the magistrates sending children to the schools, and on the other hand, there were the schools unable to receive them. The law was thus brought to a dead-lock; but he was bound to add that, through the courtesy of the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, whose attention he personally called to the case, and who took compassion upon it, the child was ultimately got into a school, because the right hon. Gentleman ordered him to be received. But still, he thought it was a most strange deadlock, that the Treasury should come into collision with the Act of Parliament in this way, and prevent its being carried out. Now, with regard to the cutting down of the resources of these schools in the shape of the Government grant. He thought that it was most desirable that people should be accustomed to meet the Treasury grants with local contributions. That was perfectly right and just, and, he should like to see the practice in this respect assimilated in both countries. But the Committee must remember that unless they assimilated the law of England and Ireland on that point, they could not get the children kept in Ireland out of a Treasury grant of 3s. 6d. In this country they gave the Treasury grant to that amount, and they also empowered three or four local bodies to vote money in assistance of that Treasury grant; but there was no such power in Ireland. When a Bill was brought in last year, which would have enabled Boards of Guardians to make some contribution, as was done in England, it was blocked in the most effectual manner, and thus that opportunity was lost of giving aid to the repression of juvenile crime.


said, he had heard the observation made that these institutions ought not to be so nursed and cherished. He would remind the Com- mittee that there was a power under the Act to compel the parents to contribute, and, therefore, if that was neglected to be enforced by the parish to which the child belonged, surely it was not the fault of the Act of Parliament?


wished to have an explanation as to the part of the Act of Parliament under which this discretion was supposed to be exercised. So far as he could see, the wording of the two Acts for the two countries was identically the same, and he had never been able to understand what was the difference. He was quite aware that both Acts ran with the word "may," and he should like to know what necessary difference there was between them? He thought the hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. A. Moore) had furnished the House with a perfect example of the evils to which he (Mr. O'Reilly) had previously alluded, when he told them that he had to make the admission of a child a personal matter with the Chief Secretary. Attempts were made long ago to exercise this discretion. Instructions were given to the magistrates not to send children to reformatory schools, unless those schools were certified; but, fortunately, that broke down. He really wished, in the first place, to have this arbitrary power on the part of the Treasury done away with. He knew it was very difficult to establish a perfect assimilation of practice; but nothing was more indefensible than the great difference of practice which at present existed. Would it not be possible to say they should receive the old rate of five shillings?


said, there was this distinction between the two countries, that in the case of the Irish schools the grants were made at the same high rate as formerly, and the change which took place in 1872 only affected the middle class of ages. At the same time, he would consider the suggestions which had been made.


pointed out, that there was no local body in Ireland who were empowered to give grants for building purposes, as in England. It had hitherto been usual for Grand Juries to give an increased payment to the schools, on the ground that they had been left entirely to their own resources, and were entitled to be recouped, some, at least, of their expenditure; but he was sorry to say that, during the last few years, there had been attempts made on the part of nearly every Grand Jury in Ireland to very much reduce these grants, and some Grand Juries had refused to give anything at all. Therefore, the managers of industrial schools in Ireland were at a great disadvantage, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take that matter into his consideration.


said, he thought the county which the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Colthurst) represented was one of those to which he had referred as refusing the grant. With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. O'Reilly), he must remind him that the discretion which was exercised under the Act with respect to the certifying of these schools had no connection with the financial branch of the subject. He understood, moreover, that there was no Irish Vote before the Committee, so that he believed they were out of Order in continuing the discussion.


said, he wished to call attention to a difficulty which Boards of Guardians had experienced in consequence of the working of the Prisons Act, and it was this—There was considerable doubt as to whether they could legally pay for the maintenance of children who were sent to reformatory schools. He wished to know, whether the Home Office had taken any legal opinion on that matter, which had previously been mentioned in the House; and, if an opinion had been obtained, he should be glad to learn what it was? If the Secretary of State could enlighten the Committee upon the subject, he believed it would satisfy the local authorities of the country upon the question. For his own part, he did not see much difference between a boy or girl who was sent to a reformatory, and a prisoner who was sent to one of Her Majesty's prisons; but it appeared that a boy or girl who was sent to prison for a month, and then to a reformatory for three or four years, would be paid for by the State during the month he or she was imprisoned, and then the moment he went to a reformatory part of the cost of maintenance was paid by the State and part by the local authority. Well, it seemed to him that if there were any doubt upon the question as to whether the State should not pay the whole expense, it was very desirable that that doubt should be set at rest.


said, the opinion of the Law Officers had been taken upon the subject. That was, he believed, to the effect that the local authorities were liable for the maintenance of children in reformatory schools. There were one or two other points concerned, and if the hon. Member would make a detailed inquiry on the Report, he would be ready to give him a definite answer.


said, there was one matter which he wished to mention to the Government. The manager of an industrial school in Belfast made a very great complaint of the way in which he was curtailed by the Chief Secretary as to his capacity for getting his school filled properly. The complaint was this—There was an enormous demand for admission into that place, and the manager did not like to turn any children away if he could avoid doing so. The consequence was that he received a very much larger number than he got a grant for, and he (Mr. Biggar) thought it was a question which might be very fairly asked of the Government as to what extent and under what conditions they would give a grant for every child who was admitted, instead of limiting the number, and then they might lower the rate, perhaps, to a level. Because, the practical result of the present system was this—that the small number which the Government would allow in the Vote was far less than it ought to be. He thought these schools ought to be enabled to maintain themselves a little above the standard of the workhouse, inasmuch as children required a special training, and ought to have a chance given them of making a good start in the world. On the other hand, if the grant were made too high, there would be a tendency on the part of the Grand Juries to cut down the number, which they had the power to do, and to make the admission more or less a matter of privilege; and thus special privileges would be given to special parents, and the class which needed it the most would not, in a great many cases, get admission into these schools. He would really press upon the Government the desirability of not limiting the number of children who should be admitted into those reformatories, and of giving the managers an opportunity of giving the advantage of that education to all who required it. He thought it would be a good thing to make a claim upon the Board of Guardians for a small proportion of the support of the children; and in that way the practical result would be, that instead of living a life of pure idleness in workhouses, if they went into a reformatory for three years, and were trained as he knew they were trained in those institutions, the children would prove decent members of society, and would not be half so likely to become permanent burdens upon the ratepayers.

Vote agreed to.

(6). £10,000, Magistrates and Miscellaneous Legal Charges, Ireland.


said, he wished to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, if he could inform the Committee whether this present amount was the normal amount of the grant, and would be the same in future? He knew that, in conquence of the alteration in the law, there must be a large supplementary addition en this occasion; but he hoped that part of it was only temporary, and that the sum total of £15,920 would not all be required in future. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would inform the Committee how the matter stood?


said, he could hardly hold out to the hon. Member any hope that there would be any diminution in the number and expenses included in this Vote—expenses which, as the hon. Member was aware, had come into operation in consequence of a recent Act of Parliament. In addition, however, he would remind the Committee, that the receipts for fees would in general more than cover expenses; and, therefore, they might look forward in Ireland, as they might in similar cases in this country, to a satisfactory working of this particular Act. The effect of it would be, that the receipts for fees would more than cover the salaries paid.


remarked, that he now saw the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland in his place, and he should like to ask him a question connected with the Vote. He had two or three questions to mention in connection with the Vote. The first question was as to the very large in- crease in the payments to the Clerks of the Peace and the other officials in that department. It seemed to be three times as much, or, at any rate, twice as much, as in the original Estimates. The next question was with regard to registrars. The sum estimated for registrars was nil, but in the Supplementary Vote there were two classes of registrars. There appeared in the entries, a "remuneration registrar" and "allowance registrar," and he begged to know what was the difference between them? Another thing he should like to know was, upon what principle those gentlemen were paid, because he believed that in the County Courts Bill last Session an arrangement was made as to what compensation should be given to the registrars? He wished to put that question to the Government, and there was some curiosity on the part of the Irish public as to how those gentlemen were paid, and how much each one received.


said, he could very readily explain the two points which had been referred to by the hon. Member for Cavan. These Votes were really part of a series of Votes which would have to be taken to carry into effect a very useful Act of Parliament, passed in the year 1877, and called the County Officers and Courts Bill. That Act provided, amongst other things, that the two offices, which were previously held in each county in Ireland of Clerk of the Crown and Clerk of the Peace, should be united. These two officers used to be paid under an old, rather vicious system of fees, and they also used to be allowed to appoint deputies. A very substantial reform had, however, been established, and it had been provided that there should be no new officers appointed whenever vacancies occured; that these offices should be united; and that, instead of there being two officers in each county, there should be only one office, to be called the United Office of Clerk of the Crown and Peace; that that officer, instead of receiving fees, should receive a certain fixed salary, which should be paid out of the Votes, and that the Exchequer should receive the benefit of the fees; so that for the first time, whenever an office of this kind fell vacant, and was filled up in pursuance of the provision in the Act of Parlia- ment, it came upon the Votes, but the Treasury would receive concurrently the fees that used to be received by these officers. At the commencement of last year there were only two of these offices united, but up to the present time there had, he believed, occurred nine or ten vacancies, so that, as he had already pointed out, the more the Estimates appeared to increase, it might be taken that there was a greater gain to the country, because the fees received by the country were far in excess of the salaries which appeared on the Votes. With regard to the allowance for registrars, they were entirely new officers who were appointed in pursuance of an unanimous and stringent recommendation of a Select Committee, which was composed mainly of Irish Members. They insisted that the County Court Judges in Ireland, to whom had been given an enlarged jurisdiction, should have the assistance of registrars; but at the commencement of the last financial year none of these officers had been appointed, and no provision had been made for their payment. To begin with, a temporary arrangement was made in the course of the year that these officers should be appointed, and, as the amount of their labours was not clearly ascertained, that they should be paid provisionally two guineas for every day they were obliged to attend in Court during the sitting of the County Court Judge, with an additional guinea a-day for their travelling expenses. That was the answer to the Questions which had been put to him by the hon. Member.


said, the fees received were not shown in the Estimates. The Chief Secretary for Ireland said that the fees would be very large, and would cover all the expenses of the Courts; but he could not find these expenses set down in the Estimates.


said, the new Rule had only just come into force, and, therefore, last year, they were not able to calculate what amount of fees they would receive.


asked, who appointed the registrars? Formerly, the duties now performed by the registrars, was performed by the Clerk of the Peace or the County Clerk, so that in reality, though they were said to have two offices amalgamated, they had a now office created. Formerly, he believed, the Lord Lieutenant had the appointment.


replied, that the whole provision with reference to the appointment of registrars, their duties, and qualifications was contained in the 10th section of the Act. It was there stated that the appointment of registrar should be made by the Chairman, or the County Court Judge, subject to the approval of the Lord Chancellor; and then there was a very distinct sub-section, which stated that every person so appointed should be an attorney or solicitor, and so on.

Vote agreed to.