HC Deb 10 July 1889 vol 338 cc5-50

Order read for consideration of Bill as amended.

New Clause (Provision as to bye-laws 38 and 39 Vic. c. 55,)—(Mr. Attorney General,)—brought up, and read the first and second time, and added.

MR. J. KELLY (Camberwell, N.)

I have to move in Clause 1, line 10, to omit the words "a manner likely," in order to insert "in such manner as." As the clause now stands the words are vague and of doubtful meaning, and may go a great deal further than I think the House intended.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 10, to leave out the words "a manner likely," and insert the words "in such manner as."—(Mr. Kelly.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'a manner likely' stand part of the Bill."


Perhaps it is desirable that I should state exactly what I have done since the Bill left the Committee. The hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. J. Kelly) proposes to insert words which will make it necessary that the child should have been injured before any offence can be committed. I feel that it is impossible to go as far as that, but at the same time I admit that the wording of the clause is open to some question, and I think the third Amendment of the hon. Gentleman may be accepted, which substitutes the words "serious injury" for the words "to be injurious."

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

MR. J. KELLY moved, in page 1, line 10, to leave out the word "unnecessary."

Question proposed, "That the word 'unnecessary' stand part of the Bill."


This matter was discussed in Committee, and the view expressed was that it would be unwise to make the clause one which could be made the means of groundless charges.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

MR. J. KELLY moved, in line 11, to leave out "to be injurious," and insert "serious injury."

Question, "That 'to be injurious' stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived.

Question, "That the words 'serious injury' be inserted," put, and agreed to.

On the Motion of Sir R. WEBSTER, Sub-section 2, of Clause 1, was made a separate clause (Restrictions on Employment of Children), and various verbal Amendments were also made.

* MR. JENNINGS (Stockport)

I beg now to move in Clause 1, page 2, Subsection (c), line 22, to leave out "or in premises licensed according to law for public entertainments," and insert— Other than premises licensed according to law for public entertainments, acrobatic and gymnastic performances excepted. The object of this Amendment is to remove the prohibition contained in the clause against the employment of children under 10 years of age in theatres. The clause as it stands was adopted somewhat suddenly by the Committee. [Cries of "No."] At any rate, there was no notice of the particular Amendment which was proposed for the prohibition of the employment of children, and the Amendment itself was adopted under a misconception of the facts. The Bill is a Bill for the prevention of cruelty to children; but it has never been alleged, either out of doors or in this House, that any cruelty to children has been practised in theatres. No well-attested case of cruelty to children has ever been brought before the public in connection with theatres; and the Director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Rev. B. Waugh, authorizes me to state that the Society has taken the greatest trouble to ascertain whether there has been any case, and has failed to find a single one. It is quite possible that the severe training which is necessary for acrobatic and gymnastic performances may occasionally involve cruelty; but the words which I propose to introduce will keep those entertainments under the prohibition. In the ordinary work of a theatre there is no motive for cruelty. The children take the greatest interest and pleasure in the performances, and there is no analogy to be drawn between that class of work and the work which brought the Factory Acts into existence. The history of those Acts show that the children were employed for long hours, that they endured great sufferings, and that excessive mortality prevailed among them. In the case of the employment of children in theatres, in most instances there cannot be a doubt that the children are actually benefited by their occupation, and upon that point there is much evidence of a substantial character to be adduced. Let me take the evidence of Dr. Priestly and Mrs. Priestly. Mrs. Priestly, in a letter to Mr. Irving in May last, wrote— Perhaps you will allow me to say that we have always considered that the poor children employed in theatres are in a more enviable position than their neighbours. The fact is that they are enviable, because they ace well-fed, well clothed, and well-trained—advantages which it is impossible for them to get in their own homes. Mrs. Priestly goes on to say, with regard to the ward which she and Dr. Priestly had set up for sick children, that they always considered the little fairies and goblins in pantomimes had a better chance of recovering from dangerous illness than their less cared-for neighbours, and she denounces the agitation against the employment of children in theatres as positively cruel. Dr. Priestly is far more qualified to give practical evidence upon this subject than any number of ladies and gentlemen who approach the subject with their minds filled with a bitter prejudice against the stage, and who have absolutely no practical experience of theatres and theatrical life. The prohibition contained in this clause would have the effect of throwing hundreds of children out of employment, and of putting an end do many performances and plays which have been popular with the English people for generations. Most of the little fairies would disappear under this new out-burst of Puritanical fervour. The Midsummer Wight's Dream would have to be played without them; "Peascod, "Mustard Seed," and the rest will have to vanish. The "Duke of York" in Richard III. will have to go after them. [Cries of "No?"] I do not know whether the hon Member who cries "No" has ever played in those parts. The part of "Arthur" in King John will probably have to be struck out of the play; at any rate, it is often given to young persons under 10 years of age. The children in the very interesting and harmless play of Olivia, the dramatization of the "Vicar of Wakefield," and in the charming play of Masks and Faces, will either go out or have to be represented by wax figures. We shall see "Norma," staggering across the stage under the burden of two overgrown tomboys instead of children. "Arline" in the Bohemian, Girl will have to wear a certificate suspended round her neck. attesting that she is over 10 years of age, and there are numberless plays, well known to the public, in which some of the most delightful parts will have to be struck out. In the Drury Lane pantomime last year there was a very pretty scene in which a number of girls were dressed up to represent dolls. They took a great interest in the performance. I spoke to one of them, and she told me that she was seven years old, and was receiving 15s. a week. In Faust, which most people have been wicked enough to see at the Lyceum, many children were employed, and Mr. Irving has informed me that there are on his staff throughout the year a number of children, some of whom are the children of dressers, and of other persons employed at the theatre. These children assist in keeping up the home, and are trained in an agreeable occupation, which enables them to provide their own living in after years. What reasonable man can see any harm in that, and what reason is there for the Legislature to interfere, and prevent the children from assisting their parents in this way? It may be said that although Mr. Augustus Harris and Mr. Irving, who I hope are not quite beyond the pale of salvation, do not illtreat children, yet they are illtreated in provincial theatres. In these days provincial theatres are almost as good as theatres in London, and the managers are not brutes, either by nature or by training. Actors and actresses as a class are among the most kind-hearted people in the world. No doubt we may find a successor of Vincent Crummles occasionally; but Crummles himself was not a bad-hearted man, and Charles Dickens, who drew him, knew a thousand times more about the theatre than any of those who have drawn up this clause. The hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith) stated that only a small proportion of the children employed early in theatres came to any good, and that to the great bulk of little girls it meant hopeless ruin. That seems to be a very ungenerous remark to come from a gentleman with such benevolent instincts as the hon. Member. It would be interesting to know on what statistics or information the hon. Gentleman bases his assertion, which is regarded by the dramatic profession as a gross and unmerited calumny. It certainly fixes a terrible stigma upon thousands of girls who have performed on the stage, and whose subsequent lives have been quite as reputable as the lives of most fashionable women of the day. There is no calling or profession which insures the constant practice of virtue. Even politicians sometimes make slips, but the stage is no worse than any other calling in this respect. If contamination of morals takes place in connection with theatrical life, I should imagine that it was after the age of 10 years, and the hon. Gentleman should have moved an Amendment prohibiting the employment of all persons in theatres above that age. It is clear the hon. Gentleman has made no inquiry on the subject. I have taken the trouble to do so, and I have in my hand a long list of names of girls who have been employed at various times at Drury Lane Theatre, and who, according to the hon. Member for Flintshire, have all gone into perdition. I will take two or three instances out of it almost at random. The House will not expect me to give the names of these girls, although I have reason to believe the girls would not object to my doing so. The list, however, is entirely at the disposal of any hon. Gentleman. The first case is that of a hardened offender, a girl only 10 years of age. She has been on the stage for several years, and last Christmas she performed in the pantomime at Newcastle. No unusual symptoms of depravity have yet broken out in her. Another case is that of a young lady who began her career at Drury Lane Theatre, and who is now the principal dancer at the Crystal Palace. Let me remind the House that these girls are not lost sight of by their most admirable trainers. As they grow older, engagements are provided for them in provincial theatres, and while they do their duty they are never forgotten. There is another young lady of 18 who is now engaged in the Carl Rosa Company. Another is at the present time appearing in the Royal Italian Opera at Covent Garden. Another is second dancer at the Empire Theatre, earning £1 15s. a week. Another, who began at Drury Lane at seven years of age, is now one of the principal dancers in the Crystal Palace outdoor ballet. Another is engaged at Birmingham; another is in the Crystal Palace ballet, and receiving £2 a week; another is a principal dancer in the Carl Rosa Company, and has married a member of the company; another has passed into a West End milliner's establishment; another has left the stage and married a gentleman in America, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will not look upon her as having necessarily sunk into hopeless ruin. These are some cases, and there are many others in the list calculated to produce a very different impression on the mind from that which was suggested by the hon. Gentleman in his gloomy picture of a procession of children passing across the stage into eternal ruin. Let me mention other instances, the force of which I believe the whole civilized world will recognise. Edmund Kean, one of the greatest actors who ever lived, performed on the stage before he was nine years old; and the worthy successor of Edmund Kean, and the greatest actor of our time, Mr. Henry Irving, writes to say— The earliest years in a theatre are often of infinite value to members of our calling, and I do not hesitate to say that some of our most distinguished actresses owe their success very largely to the fact that they were brought up in the theatre, and that the stage was to them both a nursery and a schoolroom. Miss Kate Terry performed in a theatre long before she was 10 years of age; she played the part of "Arthur" in King John, when she was eight. [Mr. MUNDELLA, "Oh! oh!"] Miss Ellen Terry played the part of the "Duke of York" in Richard III. when six years of age. That is her own belief, though, of course, it may be the right hon. Gentleman knows better; and, if so, I am sure Miss Ellen Terry will be delighted to receive any information regarding her early life from one who knows so much more about it than she does herself.

MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)

I did not desire to contradict the hon. Gentleman when he spoke of Miss Kate Terry at eight years of age playing the part of "Arthur." I remembered that historically "Arthur" was 16 years old when he was killed.


At any rate, the part was performed by Miss Kate Terry before she was 10 years of age. Mrs. Bancroft appeared on the stage before she was 10, and so did Mrs. Kendal and Miss Bateman. There are some persons in the world who look on a theatre as a haunt of vice, except on Sunday evenings, when they hire it for the purpose of preaching what they call a sermon. They are furious with the stage unless they are themselves playing on it the part of the amateur divine. They picture to themselves horrible scenes of the frightful orgies which go on behind the scenes of a theatre—when they are not there to look after morals. The fact is that behind the scenes of a theatre is a place of business which is most rigidly locked after; admission behind the scenes of our great theatres is almost as difficult to obtain as admission to Buckingham Palace. The behaviour there is, as a rule, far more decorous than that witnessed in many places of much greater pretensions. Cases of cruelty in theatres are most rare and exceptional; and it is to meet the very few cases that the words to which I object have been introduced into the Bill. The hon. Member for Evesham (Sir B. Temple) has very warmly supported the prohibition of the employment of children in theatres. He stated that the Amendment to strike out the prohibition was not only wrong, but diametrically the opposite of what is right. The hon. Member for Evesham apparently has not inquired personally into the subject, but two of his colleagues on the London School Board have done so; and after an inspection of the arrangements of the theatre for training and educating the children, they came to the conclusion that the employment of the children was not only good, but, as the hon. Member would put it, was diametrically the opposite of bad. General Sims, one of these gentleman, is now an ardent advocate of the employment of children in theatres, whereas he was formerly most bitterly opposed to it. The hon. Member seems to think that every child who is not educated under the direction of the School Board is lost, and he comes forward with great severity, and pronounces a decree of excommunication against it. But if the hon. Member is going to excommunicate all children not brought up under a School Board, he has his work cut out for him; because there are many people in the constituencies who believe that children can be more cheaply and more efficicently educated without the intervention of the School Board than with it. In fact, they are almost as much afraid of the School Board as the hon. Member appears to be of the awful orgies that go on behind the scenes in the theatres. Again, it is said that if the children are not employed in the theatres at night they will be in bed; but that by no means follows. Some persons seems to think that at 7 or 8 in the evening these young children, if not engaged at the theatre, will be carried gently upstairs and put into a comfortable, curtained brass bedstead; but that is not the lot of the children of the poor. Let hon. Gentlemen visit the purlieus of Drury Lane late at night, or the ghastly slums within pistol shot of this House. They will see how little their dream corresponds with the reality. They will find hundreds of children between 11 and 12 o'clock, or even later, drifting about the doors of the gin shops, or grovelling in the gutters with oaths and curses ringing in their ears. Of these children it may indeed be said that they are "born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards"; and almost anything which takes them, even for a time, from their misery and degradation should be welcomed as an alleviation of the hardships of their lot. The theatre to some extent does this work. I admit that it does the work imperfectly; it does not carry it out on the scale we should all like to see; but it is better than nothing. It offers to hundreds of children remunerative employment, and it does this at that time of year when help is most needed—in the depth of winter, when their parents are out of work, and when the home is going to pieces. The theatre provides them with the means of carrying clothing and food to their parents, who are very often in a state of hunger and wretchedness. It was assumed to my great astonishment throughout the previous discussion that every parent who derives help from a child is necessarily a worthless reprobate. But this is not the case. There are many fathers who are incapacitated by sickness or by accident from providing for the livelihood of their children. There are many others who are in the still more pitiable plight of being able and willing to work, but who are not able to find work to do, the most heart-breaking position any man can find himself in who has others depending upon him for support. If the House take the worthless reprobates into consideration, they are also bound not to exclude this suffering class. In many and many a case, some of which are within my own personal knowledge, the broker's man has been kept out of the home, and the widowed mother has been kept out of the workhouse by the exertions of the children who are employed in theatres. The operation of this clause can only be of the most harmful character. It shuts against these children of the poor almost the only door of escape from their rags, their misery, and their squalid homes. The clause as it stands is one for the infliction of cruelty on children, and not for its prevention; and I entreat the House to strike out these most objectionable words, and to adopt the alteration which I now move.


As a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, I rise to second the Amendment. I think that this portion of the Bill will do more harm than good to children. It will prevent them from earning a few shillings in the winter months, when money in the homes of the poor is most urgently needed. I think that the Gentlemen, actuated no doubt by the best motives, who succeeded in inserting this alteration in the Bill on the last occasion, have been guided more by sentimental than by practical considerations in dealing with the subject. It is important to bear in mind that the employment of young children in theatres has been prevalent in this country for many years, and under proper regulations I maintain that no harm can result to children so employed.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, Subsection (c), lines 22 and 23, to leave out the words— Or in premises licensed according to law for public entertainments, and insert the words— Other than premises licensed according to law for theatrical or dramatic entertainments, acrobatic and gymnastic performances excepted."—(Mr. Jennings.)

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

* MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)

I am sure that the House has listened with much interest to the able speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jennings). I readily recognize the sincerity of that speech, and I believe that the hon. Gentleman is acting according to his convictions for the good of the children. I admit that this is a fair arguable case from his point of view; but I still hold the opinion that it cannot be good for young children under 10 years of age to be employed in the heated and forcing atmosphere of theatres. I believe that such employment is injurious not only to the nerves but to the mental and physical development of children. The hon. Member quoted instances of actresses having been employed in theatres at five years of age; but I am certain that no hon. Gentleman in the House would dream of permitting any child of his to be so employed at four or five years of age, or even at 10 years of age. Now let me call the attention of the House to the view of the leading theatrical paper in the country on the subject. The Era speaks words of truth and soberness, for it says that, in the interest of the drama, it objects to the employment of very young children in theatres, and it added that, even in the case of children of real talent for acting, in its opinion, it was injurious to the development of that talent to put its little possessors to work too early, for the forcing process was always an unhealthy one. It is also asked by the writer why an exception should be made in favour of a calling like that of the stage, which is admittedly one of the most exhausting and exacting both for nerves and body. It is further shown that in France, Belgium, and the State of New York, it has been decided that children should not be employed on the stage until they were 15 years of age. As a matter of fact, however, I find that, according to the laws of the State of New York, the age is really 16. In moving his Amendment the hon. Gentleman confined himself to the case of some of the best managed theatres in London. But this question is not to be argued mainly with reference to a few exceptional cases of good management. It has to be argued with reference to the thousands of poor, second-rate, and sometimes very low and demoralizing places of amusement scattered all over the country. I am not ignorant of the effect of some of these low places of amusement on the morals of children. There are tens of thousands of children who have been horribly demoralized by attending some of the low music-halls, penny gaffs, and inferior classes of theatres. The children employed in those theatres pass from town to town; they are a sort of vagrant population without education; and if this clause can be enforced we shall be enabled to bring a large number of those children under good, sound, wholesome instruction. As to the morality of the stage, I admit I spoke somewhat strongly on the last occasion; but, speaking from what I know, I hold that the theatrical profession is not a safe one. There is a very large percentage of evil in the theatrical profession, and this view I adopt from the mouths of some of the most eminent members of that profession. But I will not go into that subject now. What we hold is this, that up to 10 years of age a child is not fit to be employed in the unhealthy and forcing atmosphere of the theatre, which is injurious to its health, education, and character.

MR. ADDISON (Ashton-under Lyne)

I must say the zeal and sincerity of the hon. Member (Mr. Smith) are so ardent and his motives so worthy that his opinions ought to be treated with the greatest respect; but I am rather surprised that the hon. Member should have made an offer to liberal sentiments, because in the course he is taking the ion. Member is departing from the principle of liberty which was once the boast of all Liberals and Radicals, which, I am sorry to say, is now mainly advocated from the Ministerial Benches—the principle that you have no right to interfere with the liberty or calling of other people except where strong public necessity is shown. So far from showing any such necessity, the hon. Member can only say that the theatrical avocation is exciting and exhausting to the nerves of children. The hon. Member has made an appeal also to our feelings as parents. Well, I confess that as regards my own children, I should be sorry to see them working in the healthiest and best ventilated factory in England, or working in the shops, or in a great many other callings in which, I hope, it will always be lawful for the children of the poor to be engaged. But I say there is nothing in which my own children up to and beyond the age of 10 take a greater delight and enjoyment than in acting or what they call "dressing up," and instead of its injuring their nerves they always seem to me the better for it. The children of the hon. Member (Mr. S. Smith), equally well brought up, no doubt, are not allowed to act; but I doubt if they have enjoyed the little sedate occupations of their youth as much as my children have enjoyed theirs. The hon. Member in making his next point read a quotation from the Era. If he had read a little further he would have seen where the cloven hoof came in, because he would have observed that the Era was going in for the protection of grown up actors; and objected to the competition of little children. The hon. Member thus departed from democratic principles in two respects. First, he departed from them by attempting unduly to interfere with lawful rights and liberties; and, secondly, he departed from them in advocating protection for grown up people. As for myself I am not surprised that the Era put this point so strongly; because the old actors not only have to compete with children, but often have to compete with them very much to their own disadvantage. I have never seen the Pirates of Penzance better played than when the parts were performed by children. To the list already quoted of great actresses who appeared on the stage at a very early age might be added the name of Mrs. Siddons, and many others. It is said that children are not necessary to the stage; but, in my opinion, the interest of many plays and. operas would be destroyed if little children could not act in them. Could Prince Arthur or Little Lord Fauntleroy be played by grown-up people? If "Arline" were bound to be over 20 years of age she would never reach "the marble halls," and her gloomy father would not be able to sing "The heart bowed down." If the unhappy fruits of Adelgiso's intimacy with the Roman soldier were two grownup young ladies, looking as if they had just come out, and seemingly well able to take care of themselves, and inclined rather than otherwise to follow their mother's example, what would become of the opera? There is something which almost lends itself to ridicule in the notion that children are any the worse as regards training, treatment, or education in consequence of their being employed on the stage. At the bottom of the honest opposition of the hon. Member opposite is the belief that the stage has a corrupt and demoralizing influence, and consequently he desires to protect little children from being trained up as actors and actresses. That sentiment ought not to influence hon. Members in departing from the sound principle laid down by democratic writers that Parliament has no right to conduct the affairs of the nation by these ill-advised attempts to do good, which always result in doing harm, and by proceeding on the notion that no people are able to look after their own interests without the interference of Parliament.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

It is somewhat curious that there appears to be a difference of opinion on this question of ballet girls according to the side of the House on which hon. Members sit. For my own part, I do not consider it a political question in any way. I can understand Gentlemen taking one side or the other; but what I do not understand is that Gentlemen calling themselves Liberals take one side of the question, while most Conservatives take the other. I feel myself in unison with the Attorney General upon this matter. The hon. and learned Gentleman is most anxious to put an end to cruelty to children; but after having thoroughly investigated this matter, he does not believe that there is any cruelty in the present system as far as regards theatres. Most of my hon. Friends are opposed to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stockport. On most subjects they doubtless know a great deal more than I do; but on this subject of ballet girls I must claim to know as much as anyone else. I will take the case of Drury Lane as a test case. One half of the children employed there are under 10 years of age. If trained they receive from 1s. 6d. to 2s. for each performance; if not trained, from 9d. to 1s. At Christmas there are about 12 performances a week, and the pantomime goes on for a considerable number of weeks. If this employment causes no injury to the children, surely it is per se an advantage that they and their families should have at Christmas the benefit of the few shillings which they earn. But then my hon. Friends say, "Why should you make one law for theatres and another law for factories?" The reason is that a theatre is not a factory, and that a factory is not a theatre. One cannot imagine that children, if they had their choice, would want to go to work in a factory. The work is very hard there, but in a theatre it is exactly the reverse—a sort of educational system united with amusement. In fact, a theatre is a sort of Kindergarten. The children, from a physical point of view, learn to move about well; they are well washed and taken care of, and they gain infinitely more in the hours which they pass in the theatre than they would gain by remaining at home. It must not be supposed, as the hon. Member for Stockport has pointed out, that these children, if they stopped at home, would be taken by nurses to little brass-bound bedsteads at an early hour of the evening. In all probability they would be found running about the streets in the neighbourhood of the slums of London at all hours of the night. We have been told by the Member for Flintshire that the opinion of the profession is against the employment of children. The hon. Member cited the Era as representing the views of the profession. It should be remembered, however, that a deputation from all the London managers waited upon the Home Secretary, and the right hon. Gentleman will admit that it was a fairly representative deputation of the profession, and that they were one and all in favour of the employment of children. The hon. Member for Flintshire, while admitting that the London theatres are well conducted, says there are thousands of places throughout the country where children are demoralized. I wish the hon. Member had not been so vague in his statement, but had named some particular cases. In respect to this Amendment, it is to be noted that it does not cover music-halls. The Amendment speaks only of places which are licensed for dramatic entertainments. No doubt there are music-halls into which no children, whatever their age, should go, but this is a question of theatres, and theatres alone; and theatres in the country are almost in every case as well managed as theatres in London. If the hon. Member for Flintshire will come with me to some theatres in the evening I will introduce him to the ladies and gentlemen there, and the hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, be convinced that there is no bad treatment of the children. Theatrical people are generally kindly, and the only injury to the children is injury to their stomachs from too many sugar plums and cakes. The hon. Member says that employment at such an early age injures the children physically, particularly their nerves. Has he given any evidence to show it? Has he quoted the opinions of any medical man? No; but a medical authority was quoted by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Jennings), who stated precisely the reverse. There can be no doubt that it in no way injures the children physically to go through this small amount of work—play I would rather call it. As to immorality, I do not understand the views of my hon. Friend on that subject. Does he mean that children under 10 would be demoralized, but that they would not be demoralized if above 10? Of course, some of the girls go to the bad, I porfectly admit it. And it is as perfectly certain that there are politicians who go to the bad in this House. But, as a matter of hard fact, it is exceedingly rare that girls brought to the theatre at a very early age go to the bad; they look upon the thing as a matter of business. The girls who go to the bad are those who go on the stage at 18 or 19 without preliminary training. I speak from an exact knowledge of the subject, whereas my hon. Friend only has a theory about ballet girls which is evolved from his own inner consciousness. As to the difficulty with regard to educa- tion, I deny that the children belong to the vagrant population unless where their parents move about the country, and where that is the case does my hon. Friend intend to stop them? The idea that the children will lose their education by going to theatres before 10 is a mistake. At Drury Lane and other places there are schools for the children, who, I believe, are as well educated as they would be at Board Schools. I hope the House will take a practical view of the matter, and that nobody will give-his Vote upon the question because he sits upon this or upon the other side of the House. I do not believe children suffer harm by taking to the stage under 10 years, either physically, morally, or intellectually. But whether they suffer morally or not, it is not a question for a Bill for the prevention of cruelty, because in no case can it be proved that any sort of cruelty exists.

* MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

I do not pretend to compete with my hon. Friend who has just sat down in knowledge or experience about one aspect of this question, which I venture to say is totally foreign both to the clause and the Amendment under discussion. I agree with my hon. Friend that this is not a political question; and if my hon. Friend studies the Division List of a fortnight ago he will find that the very valuable Amendment on the subject was carried both by Liberal and Conservative votes. I hope, therefore, the House will exercise its common sense, and not be influenced by the amusing and almost fantastic arguments of my hon. Friend. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings), in his able speech, laid down the proposition that Gentlemen should not attempt to legislate on this question who had no practical knowledge, or who were without a considerable amount of acquaintance with the subject of the performances of children in the theatres. Well, the same kind of arguments were used against Lord Shaftesbury with regard to the Factory Acts. It was said that the Conservative and Agricultuaal Party were in absolute ignorance of the condition of factory children, and that the children, if not employed in factories, would be roaming about our large towns, and would be subjected to all sorts of evil influences. And as now with the theatres, instances were given of great factories in Lancashire conducted in the most admirable manner with the greatest consideration for the interests of the children employed. It was also said that if not trained early they would not be fit for labour in factories. The same was said even of mines, and it was argued that if the employment of children was stopped the race of miners would come to an end. I am not objecting to the employment of these children because they are employed in theatres. I am objecting to the employment of children under 10 anywhere, whether in the factory, theatre, the church, or the chapel. I object to children under 10 being obliged to work for their living, and to isolate cases of destitute parents being brought forward in support of the argument of hon. Gentlemen, such cases being no justification. The point is whether, in legislation affecting children, we will or will not allow children under 10 to labour. We have prohibited children's labour in factories and mines; we have gone a great deal further. We talk of healthy occupations. What more healthy occupation than agriculture? and yet we have prohibited children under 10 from working upon a farm. Acrobatic performances in the case of children I believe to be distinctly cruel, but I do not deal with that point now. I plead that there should be no exception, and that in this country children under 10 years shall not be employed. A wise, a humane, and a Christian State claims the right to regulate these things, and it is on that ground I shall give my vote.

* SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)

I rise with much regret to oppose the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport; but I feel that, owing to the position which I have taken, and still hold, in relation to the elementary education of London children, I have no alternative. I am further called upon to briefly address the House, because my hon. Friend has done me the honour to allude to the part I took in our proceedings a fortnight ago, and he virtually said that my vision was bounded by the horizon of the School Board. But my hon. Friend shot his arrow very wide of the mark.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


Before this little interruption, I was saying my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport was wide of the mark when he said my view was bounded by the School Board, for it is well-known that I, though a member of the School Board, am a thorough advocate of the voluntary system, and do my best to promote education in all voluntary schools. Against theatrical training I saynothing—that is, the schools kept up inside theatres for the children employed there; only I say let those children take part in them who are over 10 years of age. I do not say that there should be no little fairies. It is by no means a question of fairies or no fairies; but whether the fairies shall be under or over 10 years of age. My hon. Friend gave us a long list of performances—charming plays some of them—which he says could never be acted unless children under 10 are allowed to take part in the performance. Now, I ask hon. Members is this really a practical objection? Will any man of the world believe that the fact of the age of a child being 10 or 11, eight and a half, or ten and a half, can make any difference to the performance? If this Bill passes into law all those charming performances alluded to can go on without any appreciable difference to the audience. But the difference will be very great for the children and for their future, and I say it would be the quintessence of selfishness if, for the sake of theatrical finance or to avoid some slight modification in spectacular representation or pantomime, we condemned the children to those evils which all educational authorities declare to exist. We have heard mention of many distinguished persons whose career on the stage began at a very tender age, and all that need be said is that these were exceptional cases for which we cannot legislate, and I think also these were children of well-to-do parents, and were probably of gentle birth. We are not thinking of that class; we are thinking of the many who come from the poorest and most unhappy homes in the neighbourhood of Drury Lane and Covent Garden. Then much has been said in support of the argument that there is no cruelty to these children. Now, I would remind my hon. Friend and those who agree with him that we have never urged, and are not now urging, that the children are cruelly treated. On the contrary, I quite acknowledge that nowadays young children are well taken care of in the theatres. But if nothing is to be admitted into this Bill but what comes strictly under the definition of cruelty, then a great part of this long clause with its sub-sections must go to the wall. This particularly applies to Subsection C; but all the arguments my hon. Friend has used in regard to this sub-section apply equally to the other sub-sections; and if we are justified in maintaining Sub-sections A and B, we are by parity of reasoning equally justified, so far as the cruelty argument goes, in so dealing with Sub-section C. Then, as regards the conduct of theatrical managers—and one of the ablest, Mr. Augustus Harris—my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport is not the only Member of the House who enjoys the advantage of Mr. Harris's acquaintance. I also have that honour, and I quite acknowledge the care he takes of the education of the children in his theatre. Indeed, he has done this so much that we now welcome him as an accession to the ranks of the practical educationalists of the country. But this leads me to point out that let the proprietor of the theatre do his best towards the education of the children, still he is under great disadvantages, not only as regards instruction given in the class-room, as I pointed out in my reply to the Attorney General a fortnight ago, but the disadvantages extend to the morale, the physique, the health and general condition of the children. It may be said they enjoy the nocturnal performance; but what is their condition the next morning after being up late at night amid the glare and blare, the rush and crush, the hurry and bustle at the theatre? They sleep, of course, worn out and exhausted with excitement, and most certainly are not fit for school work the next day. This is really the truth of the matter. The hon. Member for Northampton spoke of this life being a sort of Kindergarten system, and so it may be, only it is the Kindergarten at the wrong hour, with injury to the nervous system of the children. An eminent medical authority has been quoted against my view. But we know for ourselves, without consulting professional advice, that late hours at night amidst excitement is most injurious to the nervous system of very young children. Allusion has been made to the opinion of one or two of my colleagues on the School Board; but they are the very smallest minority in a Board of 53 members. And I can assure my hon. Friend that without doubt the Board, as a body, are entirely opposed to this employment in theatres of children at a tender age, and for several years we have been agitating with this view. Some of us, as a deputation from the Board, waited upon the Home Secretary recently and placed our views before him. Of course, he received us with his usual urbanity and listened to us with his wonted patience. I am sure, whether he agreed with us or not, he will testify to the earnestness of our representations and the amount of specific information we laid before him. I may mention one who bears a name honoured and respected in every part of this House that I am sure will carry authority, Mrs. Henry Fawcett, and anyone who doubts the soundness of the view put forward by the School Board should read this lady's pamphlet on the employment of children in theatres, and the opinions of a large number of school mistresses, teachers, and educational authorities there quoted. I will only add that the universal opinion of these is fully borne out by the experience of our School Board members, managers, visitors, and inspectors that this employment of children is highly deleterious, and cannot by any process be made otherwise. Mr. Augustus Harris may do his best, but he cannot override that law of nature that prescribes rest for young children at night. It is said that these children would, if not at the theatre, be running about the streets; but here, I will venture to say, there is an amount of exaggeration amounting almost to an unintentional misrepresentation of fact. The number of children to be found in the streets at a late hour is comparatively small, and this I know from information collected by the School Board through the special establishments maintained for picking up nocturnal waifs and strays. Lastly, I beg the House to remember that we make a moderate proposal, and draw the line at about 10 years of age, and in that respect we have the precedent of the Factory Act. Before concluding, I ask leave to say just a few words on behalf of the London poor. Of course there are some unfeeling and neglectful parents to whom this Bill is justly applicable. But for one case of this kind, I find in the course of my educational duties a dozen cases where parents behave wonderfully well under their hard circumstances, where mothers, themselves ill-fed and ill-clad, yet manage to send their children to school with decent aspect, and in tolerably fair condition. And in conclusion, I do entreat the House, and all those who are interested in education, and all those who feel a real concern for humanity and for the civilization of the nineteenth century, to support this not fantastic and fanatical, but practical and businesslike proposal, and so guard the little ones, of the rising generation.

* MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Cirencester)

Sir, it must have struck the House how the arguments used on the other side are all founded on one or two special and exceptional instances. I am not here to say that the stage is corrupt or immoral; I am not here to say that some of the good ladies, whose names have been mentioned here to-day, do not take the liveliest interest in the dear children; I am not here to say anything against the management of Mr. Augustus Harris; but I am here to argue a very much broader and a much more serious question altogether. I do not think that the way in which the case has been put has removed any of my objections. What is the case? That we should make a special exception in the legislation of this country as to the labour of children in favour of one particular employment. We have legislated for a long time past to restrict the hours of labour of women and children, and to prevent little children of tender years being employed at all. We say to the working classes—"It is so important from our point of view that education shall reach the mass of the people, and that every child shall be equipped to fight the battle of life, that we impose special disabilities upon you, and we ask you to submit to what is often a very serious self-denial. We will not take an excuse if a child is kept at home to nurse a sick brother or sister; we will not take an excuse if the child is employed to assist its parents in their employment, nor will we allow the child to be sent to any factory or ordinary trade till it has reached a definite age and a definite educational standard, yet one thing, and one thing only, we will allow these children of tender years to do, to minister to the amusement of the British people." "Butchered to make a Roman holiday" is a familiar saying. If you want to employ those children to minister to the amusement of the upper and middle classes you will have to make out a very much stronger case than has yet been made. Be it observed that the case is thrown over as regards ordinary music halls, and it is only theatres which are to be thus specially privileged. The advocates of this exemption have now thrown over all except the dramatic profession; but in Glasgow, Liverpool, and all large places, the border line between the theatre and the music hall is a very narrow one, and at all places of entertainment which obtain a theatrical license young children will be employed. They may not go out to sell flowers or matches, but they may be fairies on the stage. I deny the statement that hundreds would be thrown out of employment, and I do not believe that the pantomime would be spoiled because children could not be employed under the age of 10 years. The case was put as well as it could be put by the Attorney General on a former occasion. The Attorney General spoke of the encouragement of exceptional talents and exceptional voices. I wondered when I heard him how he came to forget that the one way to ruin a voice is to exercise it at too early an age. The Attorney General does not appear to assent; but I heard one of the most celebrated vocalists of the day laugh at what the Attorney General said, and observed that the sure way to ruin a promising voice was to work it before the age of 10 years. I tell you what the special talents are—a good-looking face and a specially good pair of legs. ["Oh!"] I am sorry plain speaking is necessary. The hon. Member for Stockport read a list of instances, but they were all "ballet."


I gave a list of some of the most celebrated plays in English literature.


The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. I referred to the cases he read to the House of individuals, and what they are doing now, and in almost every case it was the ballet. My statement is that they are employed as specially pretty children, and that the great proportion join the ballet corps afterwards. I am not afraid of being told that I am in favour of grandmotherly legislation when I advocate the protection of these children of tender years from being brought up to this profession by special relaxation of the law. What becomes of them? They grow up as ballet girls, and what becomes of 75 per cent of the ballet girls? Ask the City Missionaries, and the devoted ladies who do such noble work among their fallen sisters! They grow older, their limbs become stiffer, younger ballet girls compete with them, they have been exposed to a certain atmosphere, certain tastes have been developed, they are not fitted for the ordinary pursuits of the world, they leave the ballet, and what becomes of them? I am sorry to say, but I believe it to be the sad truth, that the majority of these poor girls go on the streets; and I feel, Mr. Speaker, that I am only discharging my duty in reminding the House of this serious fact. I read in a paper called the En'tracte:— When Flossy has put on gorgeous raiment for the theatre, and has taken ever so small a part in a successful scene, her affection for sewing buttons on her brother's shirt is very small. It is gravely argued that the children like it. Are we necessarily doing our duty by these little ones by letting them do the pleasant thing? The society papers are all against us, but they are generally on the side of the pleasure loving public. I am sorry to see that they have enlisted Mr. Punch against what I think is the right side on this question, for he is generally on the right side. The opposition has been called "cant," "religious hypocrisy," "hu-manitarianism," and the usual epithets have been applied to us. We had all this when we were legislating for the protection of women and children not long ago; we had to meet it on the question of flogging in the Army; we had it when we attacked the wicked and disgraceful Army brothel system in India and put an end to it last year, and the same thing happens now. But I care not what is said of us; it is as a Christian I am going to vote; it is the cause of "these little ones" so dear to Christ that we plead for to-day. I accuse no one who differs from me of not being perfectly conscientious in this matter. I know that there are good people who own those gin palaces, which one hon. Member alluded to, from the influence of which the fairies, he said, were taken who spend money generously and liberally, and who would be shocked if they were accused of being in any way responsible for the poverty, vice, and crime connected with such places. I hope I have not said a word to imply that those who support this Amendment are not perfectly conscientious in their views; but it is because I believe the moral and spiritual welfare of these dear little children of 6, 7, and 8 years old is involved that I am going to vote against the Amendment. There are parents who are willing to sell their children.

An Hon. Member

Oh, oh!


We know, alas that that is so; and although some hon. Member says "Oh," we have ample proof that there are parents willing to sell their children even for an evil purpose, while numbers are ready to sell them for the purpose of earning money. But we are dealing now with the great mass of the working class, and not with a few exceptional cases; and I say the people of this country are against children under 10 being put to any work at all, their desire being that they should be properly educated and trained for the battle of life. And I warn the House that, if this Amendment should unhappily be carried, the people will ere long demand that the exemption it embodies shall be repealed.


I almost feel ashamed of myself because I was hardly able to listen to the speech of the hon. and learned Member who has just spoken without a sense of indignation. I do not for a moment doubt the reverence of his allusions to Christianity; but I object to his affectation of moral superiority over the rest of the House, and especially to his claim to guardianship over parents of our poor children, which I am not disposed to yield to him without further consideration. But it is not so much on account of the hon. and learned Gentleman's assumption of moral superiority, of which I am perfectly ready to make him a present, as it is on account of his apparent claim that he and his friends are better judges of what is good for other people than they are themselves, that I object to the manner in which he has dealt with this subject. He assumes that he and those who agree with him have so much more knowledge, so much more wisdom, and so much more experience of life that they have a right to tell the parents how their children should be brought up, and to exercise through the action of this House in a vicarious way the duties which in reality belong to the parents themselves. I must confess that I always take part in these social and philanthropical discussions with extreme pain and reluctance because I am unable to lash myself into that condition of moral superiority which leads one to believe that he is entitled to dictate what others should do in matters of this kind. I am unable to imagine that it is my business to decide for the parents, who, in nine cases out of ten, have the welfare of their children most sincerely at heart, what particular vocation in life they shall adopt, and I have always had a prejudice in favour of that old-fashioned doctrine, which I know is quite out of place in this advanced age, of trusting a good deal to the responsibility of the parents, and not attempting to take the duty of managing their children absolutely out of their hands, and of throwing on them the duty of seeing that the education and employment of their children are such as to fit them for their future course of life. Holding these antiquated views, I approach the consideration of this question from a very different point of view to that of the hon. and learned Member. I do not see how I am to dictate to the poor of London the particular way in which the poor of London are to train and educate their children. I simply ask myself whether a case has been made out for the interference of the State with the natural duty of the parents and the responsibility which devolves on them; and I confess I cannot see that such a case has been made out. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of drawing the line at theatres, and of this House enacting that children should be allowed to go to such places; and he and his friends are now asking for the means of preventing the employment of thousands of children of the poor, who now assist their parents in eking out the means of existence during the winter months. I know, as a matter of fact, the hardships which such an interference would impose on the poor of London. There are hundreds and thousands of children in the Metropolis whose employment in this way helps to lighten the struggles of their parents with cold and hunger and all the other difficulties which beset the lives of the poorer classes. The hon. and learned Member asks us, in the name of Christianity and benevolence, to cut off this source of supply. By all means do so if the necessity can be demonstrated; but, at all events, let a good case be made out. I ask the House, has such a case been made out? My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire (Sir R. Temple), in the excellent speech he made a short time ago, admitted he had nothing to say against the employment of children at theatres—in the sense that no cruelty was practised, that no physical deterioration was produced, and that there was no evidence of any inferiority of moral condition on the part of children as compared with the ordinary moral condition of other children of the same class. This being so, I simply say that no case has been made out for State interference of this character with the usual employment of the children of the poor, and therefore it would be an act of tyranny on the part of the majority of this House, without any adequate case being made out, to shut the door to such employment, and determine that these children shall be deprived of the opportunity of assisting their parents in obtaining their daily bread. This is a matter in which I rely on the dictates of reason and common sense. I believe that society would, upon the whole, go on better if the poor were left to take care of their own children, and decide for themselves what employment they should be put to. I was much struck by the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire. He agreed, in the main, that the School Boards should not go beyond the provisions required for educational purposes; and it is well known that schoolmasters are, as a rule, the natural enemies of recreation and amusement. But would the hon. Gentleman allow the School Boards and schoolmasters and the Privy Council the exclusive right to dictate what shall be the employment of the children of the poor? All that School Boards and schoolmasters can, and ought to do, is to see that the conditions prescribed by the Education Acts are, in the case of the theatrical children as well as others, properly fulfilled. If they are not fulfilled, by all means let the law take its course; but if it be found that, in spite of late hours and the excitement consequent on the employment of the children at the theatres, all the educational requirements of the law are fulfilled as well as or better than in the case of other children of the poor, then I see no reason in the School Board argument why this House should interfere in this matter. I am obliged to the House for allowing me to say these few words. I hope I have not repeated those arguments which have given so much concern to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cirencester (Mr. Winterbotham); and I urge, upon the doctrine the hon. and learned Gentleman is disposed to sneer at, that the parents should be held primarily responsible for the care and education of their children, and that the State should never interfere with the sacred parental duty unless a strong case for such interference is made out.

MR. L. H. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)

I must say my hon. and learned Friend is marvellously modest in his ideas. He wishes to excuse himself from being supposed to have moral or intellectual superiority, not merely over Members of this House, but over parents. He puts himself in a position—which he confesses is old-fashioned—of maintaining the responsibility of parents. But although I also feel very strongly the desirability of maintaining the responsibility of parents, I must impress on the hon. and learned Gentleman that his position of unrestricted and uncorrected responsibility on the part of parents is nearly 50 years behind the age. What has struck me most in the course of the Debates on this subject has been the way in which hon. Members have treated the principles which have governed the legislation of this House during the last 40 or 50 years. To say to a parent that a child shall not be sent out to earn a living unless it is over 10 years of age, is talked of as if it is frightful. Hon. Gentlemen do not appear to realize that the onus probandi does not rest upon those who desire to see children under 10 restricted from employment in pantomimes, but upon those who are against that restriction. I desire to dissociate myself from some arguments that have been used as to the conditions of theatrical employment, and the subsequent conduct of those who are temporarily thus employed. I take my stand upon this—that the advocates of such employment have not discharged the onus probandi that lay upon them, and have shown no good ground why children under 10 years of age, who are debarred from other employment, should be permitted to be employed at Drury Lane and other theatres. Why should this special exemption be made? We have been told of the grievous necessities of poor parents, and of the hardships which will be inflicted on them if they are deprived of the scanty earnings of their children. But we have heard those arguments on previous occasions, and yet we relentlessly interfered with the employment of children under 10 in factories. It is said that if this employment is not allowed the parents will in many cases have to resort to parish relief. But there are many parents who are careless and negligent, and who take the earnings of their children, who, without such earnings, would manage to support themselves. But even if the parents were driven to obtaining assistance from the parish to maintain themselves and their children, the House of Commons, with its superior wisdom, says that even that is better than that children should be subjected to employment prematurely. That is the position we have assumed in the past, and I say we are bound to carry it through. But a further argument has been advanced in favour of the exemption of theatres from this enactment. It is said that if you cannot employ children under 10 years of age you will not get finished artists in adult years, and that, if the employment of children is forbidden, it will be fatal to the subsequent appearance of artists on the stage. There is no reality in this suggestion. We have often heard it before, and may at once put it aside as a mere phantasm. In France the employment of children is forbidden, yet France is not without its theatrical artists, and the French stage is fully as respectable and far superior to anything we have on this side of the water. To-day we have had the case of the theatrical managers placed before us. But the same arguments have previously been advanced on behalf of almost every trade and profession. Factory owners, coal owners, ship owners, newspaper proprietors, and other employers like the theatrical managers all desired special exemptions in their case, and pointed out how necessary such exemptions were. But unless the House is prepared to make other exemptions, I see no reason for making an exception in favour of theatrical managers. Parliament has refused to make these exceptions in the past. I hope a like refusal will follow in the present instance.


Before I deal with the interesting speech which has just been delivered, I wish to say a word or two as to the course I propose to take in the event of this Amendment being, as I hope it will be, carried. If it is agreed to I shall move the insertion of words making it an offence under the Bill to employ a child under the age of ten years in any acrobatic or gymnastic performances. I think we are all agreed on the importance of doing that, and I have no doubt the hon. Member for Stockport will accept that Amendment. And now, in answer to the speech we have just heard, it might have been supposed that we were discussing the Preamble of a Bill to extend the Factory Acts to theatres. But the Bill is one to prevent cruelty to children, and I protest against the principle of factory legislation being invoked. I can only speak of what occurred in this House when the factory legislation was under consideration from what I have read. I have read with interest many of the brilliant speeches delivered by great men, some of whom are still with us. But, so far as I know, all legislation of the nature of the Factory Acts has been based on proved cases of injury to the children, or positive interference either with their education or health. As the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke knows perfectly well, I respect his opinion as much as any Member of this House. But why, I ask, if this is the line on which he declines to support the Amendment, has not a Bill been boldly introduced to extend the Factory Acts? Now, I want to bring the House back to the real question, and that is, is the employment in theatres of children under ten years productive of cruelty, or injurious to the health or education of the children? It is practically admitted that it is not? My hon. Friend the Member for Evesham said he could not see any reason for allowing, even indirectly, children to be employed in theatres, if you forbid them to go into the streets for the purpose of singing, playing, and performing; and what were the reasons which induced the House to accept the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield. He said, in clear, forcible, and pathetic language, that children under the pretence of singing and playing had been forced into the streets, and cruelly ill-treated by their parents if they did not bring home sufficient money. But in the course of the 20 on 30 speeches we have had on this matter nobody has suggested that a parent has ever forced a child against its will to sing or play in a theatre in order that that parent might trade on the earnings of the child. I desire to enter my protest against the tone adopted by the hon. Member for Cirencester. I have had the privilege and honour of discussing this matter with Mrs. Fawcett, and I have also seen the Rev. B. Waugh, both of whom state—and I do not understand that it is contradicted by any Member of this House—that, so far as they know, not a single instance of cruelty in connection with employment of children in theatres has ever been discovered. We are not now considering shall these children have the education given in a theatre, or education of a different character; but we have to consider whether the employment of children under 10 years of age in a theatre is likely to injure them. I venture to suggest that a false issue has been raised by the opponents of this Amendment. If this is purely an educational question—as suggested by the hon. Member for Evesham—why do not the School Board do their duty? Under the Education Act of 1876 there is a remedy which I understand has been put in force in many parts of the country, for inspectors have attended the theatres, in order to see if the children employed in them are given a proper education, and if the instruction supplied is insufficient then the law has been enforced. I repeat, we are here to consider whether this method of employing children is in itself such as will subject them to improper and cruel treatment. I hope I may be pardoned for not following hon. Members into questions of morality; but if it is right to allow girls of 11 or 12 to be employed in theatres, surely it is absurd to suggest that immorality is encouraged if the children employed are under 10. The most experienced managers of theatres find that good is done by inducing children to look upon the theatre, rather than the streets, as their school and playground. I would be among the first to join in any legislation to prevent the cruel treatment of children; but I ask the House to accept this Amendment, on the ground that this is not a measure in which to extend the provisions of the Factory Acts.

* MR. MATHER (Lancashire, Gorton)

I understand the Attorney General to say that the terms of this proposal, to prevent cruelty to children, cannot be properly applied to children who are employed in theatres in the most innocent and harmless occupation of amusing the public. Now, I contend we have to decide whether the occupation so described by the Attorney General is one that in any sense comes under the category of occupations which are defined in the Bill as being hurtful, either morally or physically, to children; and I think Members of this House who have listened to the debate on this question, both to-day and on a former occasion, when the subject was exhaustively treated, will agree that while personal ill-treatment of children at theatres is impossible, yet the excitement and the unnatural conditions of labour for a child under 10 years of age cannot but engender imaginations under conditions which for children of tender age are extremely harmful to them. The right hon. Gentleman the member for Wolverhampton brought the House down to the narrow point which we have to decide, and that is whether we will agree, under any circumstances, to allow children under 10 years of age to be engaged in any occupation which can be constructively harmful to them. It is simply necessary to consider whether the children are placed in circumstances likely to be injurious to their education, and to engender in their minds certain notions which, at 10 years of age, cannot possibly be otherwise than hurtful. We have already by Act of Parliament laid it down that every child under 10 years of age shall be absolutely free from gainful occupations; that they shall be forced into public elementary schools, and compelled to take the education necessary for the preparation of their minds and bodies for the duties of life. Now we cannot both enjoin high duties in this respect upon the parents, and, at the same time, give them power to use their children in the evening in such occupations as may be hurtful to their morals. I think that public opinion on this question has been tested in the Town Councils of the country. In 1882 the Town Council of the City of Manchester certainly was in favour of prohibiting the employment of children under 10, either in theatres or in any other places of entertainment; and I believe if the provisions of this Bill could be laid before that body, it would again unanimously come to a like conclusion and vindicate the great principle that, at 10 years of age, children should be absolutely free from all necessity, either through their parents or guardians, of undertaking occupations which are unnatural and likely to be harmful to them.

MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)

I should not have taken part in this Debate had it not been for the reference that the working classes would be immensely benefited by the adoption of the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Stockport. Now, I think it would be very difficult indeed to find any considerable number of the working classes so called who would be immensely benefited. On the contrary, I think that a majority of that class, were they appealed to tomorrow, would be in favour of the Bill as it stands, rather than of the Amendment of the hon. Member opposite. I may say I am astonished more particularly at the cynical references made by the hon. Member on the Front Government Bench to the speech of the hon. Member for Cirencester. The hon. Gentleman must have been thinking that he was legislating for India, and though he cannot be said to be distinguished for the same opinions with regard to morality and religion as the hon. Member for Cirencester holds, yet he is distinguished for the cynicism with which he approaches this important subject. Let me recall the attention of the Attorney General to this fact. He has referred to the number of speeches made in this House with regard to factory legislation. Let me remind him, and also those who may be in favour of the Amendment now proposed, of what was brought before the Commission in 1839, 1840, and 1841. If they turn to the Report of that Commission they will find the same kind of evidence was brought to bear in favour of the employment of young children of four years of age in the mines of this country. ["Oh! Oh!"] Some hon. Members cry "Oh! Oh!" but if they will only read the evidence they will find that precisely the same kind of argument was brought forward in support of little children of four years of age being employed in the coal mines, as are now urged in support of this Amendment. With regard to this matter, I hope the House will not narrow it down as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General wishes it to. I say it is not a mere question of physical cruelty, but it is a question of children being cruelly injured mentally, morally, and physically, by being brought into contact at an early age with all the evil influences attaching to theatres. The Amendment is an effort to make an exception in favour of theatres, on behalf of the theatre-going public. It is quite a modern innovation to put children upon the stage, and it is more than ever necessary to protect young children even from their parents. In the public interests, and particularly in the interests of the working classes, there ought to be no employment of children under 14 years of age; and I should be prepared not only to extend the age mentioned in this clause from ten to 14 years, but I would not suffer any child in this kingdom to be employed in any occupation whatever until it had attained the age of 14 years.

The House divided:—Ayes 188; Noes 139.—(Div. List, No 194.)

Amendment proposed, Clause 1, page 2, after line 31, insert— Provided that any Local Authority may, if they think necessary or desirable so to do, from time to time by bye-law entered or restrict the hours mentioned in Sub-section (b) of this section, either on every day or on any specified day or days of the week, and either as to the whole of their district, or as to any specified area therein."—(Sir R. Webster.)

Agreed to.

* MR. H. S. WEIGHT (Nottingham, S.)

I have put down an Amendment, in order to obviate one of the objections to the employment of children in theatres—namely, the late hours. After the Division that has just taken place, I cannot hope very much that the difference between early and late hours will weigh sufficiently with hon. Members to induce them to accept the Amendment, but still I should like to take the sense of the House upon it. I think that if all the hon. Members who voted in the Division which has just taken place had heard the debate, there would have been a much larger minority, if not a majority, for the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Mr. Jennings). I think that the question of time may have some influence with hon. Members, and I beg to move my Amendment.

Amendment proposed, Clause 1, page 2, at end, add— Provided, That nothing in this Clause shall prevent the employment of children in theatres before the hour of nine p.m."—(Mr. S. S. Wright.)

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


The next Amendment is one I have put down, in pursuance of a pledge given when the Bill was in Committee.

Amendment proposed, Clause 2, page 2, lines 38 and 39, leave out the words "sub-sections (a) and (b)," and insert "or sub-section (a) of section two."—(Sir R. Webster.)

Agreed to.

Other Amendments agreed to:—

Clause 2, page 3, line 7, after "into," insert "such."—(Sir R. Webster.)

Clause 2, page 3, line 9, leave out all after "charge," to end of Clause.—(Sir R. Webster.)

Clause 3, page 3, line 14, leave out the words "sub-section (a)."—(Sir R. Webster.)


I beg to move in Clause 3, page 3, line 15, to leave out "(b) committed for trial for any such offence." I venture to ask the House to consider whether it is proper to enact that a person whose guilt has never been proved should be dealt with in the same way as a person whose guilt has been proved. I doubt whether the House desires that a person who may have committed no offence, and who has been committed for trial on evidence upon which no real reliance can be placed, should be treated in the same way as a person who has actually been found guilty. It is certainly very novel to the law that a person's guilt should be assumed before he has been found guilty; and I ask the House to refuse to adopt a provision that any parent should be deprived of the society of his own child, simply because on unreliable evidence he has been committed for trial.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 15, to leave out the words, "(b) committed for trial for any such offence."

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."—(Mr. Kelly).


My hon. and learned Friend seems to have forgotten that the clause would only have operation where a primâ facie case has been proved before the Magistrates sufficient to show the guilt of the person to their satisfaction. I must say that under such circumstances I should not like to leave the child under the power of the individual, who might have more vindictive feelings from the knowledge that he had been found out. The section is safeguarded in every way, and if we are prepared to protect the child we ought to do it thoroughly.

Question put, and agreed to.

The following Amendments were agreed to:—

Clause 3, page 3, line 20, leave out "its parent," and insert "such person."—(Sir R. Welster.)

Clause 3, page 3, line 20, leave out "its next friend," and insert "a relation of the child."—(Mr. Tomlinson.)

Clause 3, page 3, lines 25 and 26, leave out "such parent has been accessory," and insert "a parent of the child is charged with being or has been party or privy."—(Sir R. Webster.)

Clause 3, page 3, line 35, leave out "Act, 1866," and insert "Acts."—(Sir R. Webster.)

* MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)

At my instance, when the Bill was in Committee, similar words were inserted in the earlier part of the clause, and it was suggested that the previous Amendment left the clause not quite clear, and I therefore propose to insert after "to," in line 37, "the person responsible for the maintenance of the child or."

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 37, after the word "to," to insert the words "the person responsible for the maintenance of the child or."—Mr. Tomlinson.)

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


I do not think the Amendment is necessary. The Court would give the custody of the child to some person whom it would name. I think the words as they stand are quite sufficient.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The following Amendments were agreed to:—

Clause 3, page 4, line 7, leave out from "committing," to "person," in line 8.—(Mr. Tomlinson.)

Clause 3, page 4, line 8, leave out "cancelled," and insert— Void except with regard to anything which may have been lawfully done under it."—(Mr. Tomlinson.)

Clause 3, page 4, at end insert— (3) One of Her Majesty's principal Secretaries of State in England or Scotland and the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland may at any time in his discretion discharge a child from the custody of any person to whom it is committed, in pursuance of this section, either absolutely or under such conditions as such Secretary of State or Chief Secretary approves.


I propose the Amendment I have placed on the Paper in order to carry out what was understood to be the intention of the Committee.

Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 18, leave out the words "place of safety," and insert the words— Workhouse or a place certified by the Local Authority to be a suitable place for the detention of children under this Act."—(Mr. Tomlinson.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'place of safety' stand part of the Bill."


The Attorney General has words in Clause 11 which provide for all that.


The words appear in the Definition Clause, and the hon. Member can amend them if they do not satisfy him when we come to them.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, Clause 4, page 4, line 21, leave out from "dealt with," to end of line 23, and insert "as may be authorised by law."—(Sir R. Webster.)

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move after "under," in line 40, to insert "section 1, sub-section 1 of." I think that if the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Mundella) will bear in mind the great difference between the offences under this section and under the other sections he may be disposed to agree with me. I would remind him that this provision is something novel in law. Even in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill such a clause as this did not appear. I think it desirable that such a clause should be omitted altogether; but I say it is impossible for the House to pass the clause in its present form. I will not now discuss the question whether it is desirable, in reference to the graver offences, to compel a woman to choose between convicting her husband and committing perjury, for which she will be punishable by law. I would appeal to the learned Attorney General to support me in this Amendment, because I am sure that he and the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Mundella) will admit that there is the widest distinction between the different offences which will be struck at by this Bill.

Amendment proposed, Clause 5, page 4, line 40, after "under" to insert "Section 1, Sub-section 1, of."

Question proposed, "That the words 'Section 1, Sub-section 1 of' be there inserted."


I think it would be well if my Amendment were discussed at the same time as that of my hon. Friend. My Amendment practically covers that of my hon. Friend, and if it does not commend itself to those in charge of the Bill I should be prepared, rather than give up the point altogether, to support his. My excuse for re-opening this question on the Report stage, after a Division in which the minority holding my views only amounted to 13, is that the subject is really one of great importance, and that a radical alteration in our laws was discussed in a very thin House, Members trooping in when the Division was called, without really knowing what the question was under discussion, and voting simply on the Tellers' names. I should like to protest against the custom, which prevails too much among lawyers in this House, of introducing into small clauses of this nature alterations in our laws that are really of a wide and far-reaching character. I object to the smuggling of new principles into the law in this way. There is an undoubted principle involved in this question. It is quite a new principle that a wife should be compellable to give evidence against her husband. It is quite true that under the Criminal Law Amendment Act a wife is competent to give evidence against her husband, but she is not compelled to do so. Hon. Members who take the opposite view say, "What does it matter? Fiat experimentum in corpore vili. Those who cruelly ill-treat children are such downright blackguards that it does not matter at all." I object to that assumption, because you are making the experiment not on the brute who ill-treats the children, but on the wife. Bill Sikes may be a brute, but Nancy is not, and it is on behalf of the married Nancy that I am pleading now. Take the case of the stepfather who, in a fit of drunken cruelty, ill-treats his wife's children. He may be a good and kind husband when he is sober. If he is, she has to choose between giving evidence to save her children from ill-treatment and refusing to send her husband to gaol. If he is a brutal husband, she has to choose between committing perjury and getting a sound thrashing when he comes out of prison. The law of this country has always recognized the unity of man and wife with regard to questions of evidence; and I do not think it would be a good thing at all, especially for the poorer classes of this country, that the distinction between the evidence of husband and wife and the evidence of other persons should be done away with. It is said by many that, after all, this is only a bit of sentimental legislation of our fore- fathers. Now, I am opposed to most of the sentimental legislation of the present day, on the ground that nearly all of it tends to increase police power and to interfere with the freedom of the liberty of the subject. But if hon. Members will examine the bits of so-called sentimental legislation which have come down to us from our forefathers, they will find that in every one of them the sentiment is entirely in favour of freedom. There is one point in this clause which I certainly think has been overlooked. Under Section 3, if a person is guilty of a grave offence against a child the Court may order that the child should be placed in charge of another person who may keep the child, if a boy until he is 14 years of age, if a girl until she is 16. Suppose a mother has to choose between her child and a husband who is brutal to the child, but kind to her. She is certainly placed in a hard situation. She is compelled to give evidence, and she may feel that by the very evidence she is going to give her child may be taken out of her charge for many years. She may feel that in future she can preserve the child from her husband's cruelty, or she may have hopes of reclaiming the husband; and yet, if she speaks the truth, she may lose the society of her child for many years. I may say that I most heartily approve of the Bill as a whole, and thank the right hon. Gentleman opposite for having brought it in; but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to allowing the wife to remain only a competent, and not a compulsory, witness.


Perhaps it will save time if I at once express my opinion on both the points that have been raised. I cannot advise the House to agree that the wife should be made a voluntary, and not a compellable, witness. The information before us is that, in cases in which horrible cruelties, amounting almost to starvation, have been practised by the husband, unless you can get the wife's evidence there is no chance of obtaining a conviction, and it is therefore necessary to compel the wife to give evidence. It is also necessary in the interests of the wife, because if she be merely a competent and not a compellable witness, and if she volunteers to give evidence where she need not do so, she may bring upon herself the vengeance of the husband. As to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Camberwell (Mr. Kelly), it seems to me to be really a matter for the discretion of the House. I quite agree with my hon. and learned Friend, that the really serious part of the proposal relates to Section 1, which deals with cases of extreme cruelty. If he thinks there is a real necessity for the Amendment with regard to Section 2, I should not be prepared to oppose it.


I hope the House will allow the clause to stand as it is. It has not been smuggled through the House or passed without thorough discussion, and I think there is more cruelty in connection with sending out children to beg in the streets than in any other form.


I am rather in favour of giving the power unless in the more serious offences, but I do not desire to press my view in the matter, if there is a strong opinion against it. I would rather let the House decide the question as it thinks best.

The House divided:—Ayes 94; Noes 227.—(Div. List, No. 195.)

The following Amendments were agreed to:—

Clause 6, page 5, line 14, leave out from "Act," to "offences," in line 18, both inclusive, and insert "Indictable Offences Act, 1848."—(The Attorney General.)

Clause 6, page 5, line 29, at end, add— Provided always, that any such witness being convicted of perjury shall not be liable to penal servitude or to imprisonment for a longer period than two years."—(Mr. Gedge.)

Clause 9, page 6, line 1, leave out "or complaint;" line 2, leave out "to a Court of General or Quarter Sessions;" line 3, leave out from "conviction," to end of clause, and insert— In England and Ireland to a Court of General or Quarter Sessions, and in Scotland to the High Court or Circuit Courts of Justiciary, in the manner provided by 'The Summary Prosecutions Appeals (Scotland) Act, 1875' (38 and 39 Vict., c. 62), or any Act amending the same."—(The Attorney General.)

MR. W. E. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)

I now beg to move the Amendment, of which notice stands earlier on the Paper, to provide that the order for the custody of a child under Clause 3 may be made the subject of appeal. A parent should have the custody of a child at an early age, unless the Magistrate sees fit to make an order to the contrary; but it seems to me that the power of putting such an order in force depriving the parent of such custody for a term of years should not rest upon the opinion of one Magistrate merely, and therefore I would give the parent the opportunity at any time of appealing against such order to the Quarter Sessions. I am aware that the Lord Chancellor can, under the Bill, order the discharge of the child from the custody to which it has been remitted; but the chances are, that the parent who has lost the child will know nothing of this power of the Lord Chancellor, and will look to the Court which took the child from him. I think it would be wise to provide that, during the whole period of the absence of the child from his custody, the parent should have the power of appealing to Quarter Sessions to reverse the order.

Amendment proposed, at the end of the foregoing Amendment, to insert the words, and such Court may entertain any appeal against any order under Section 3 of this Act."—(Mr. W. F. Lawrence.)

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


I venture to think, having regard to what has been inserted previously, this is unnecessary. In the first place, the Court making the order has power at any time to alter or vary it; and in addition, to meet the suggestion of my hon. Friend, a clause has been inserted giving the Secretary of State authority to discharge the order on such conditions as he may think fit. There is an objection to giving an appeal against the order while the conviction stands—it introduces a novel procedure, because the Court of Quarter Sessions would not have jurisdiction to inquire into the merits of the original conviction, but would have to hear the whole of the case to determine whether or not such an order should have been made, and whether it should be annulled. I think it is more expedient to leave the clause as it now stands.


I doubt whether the power of the Court to vary an order quite meets the case; and I cannot help thinking we ought to provide something more definite than this power in order to secure effectual control over orders for the custody of children. It should be remembered that this Act will be put into operation by authorities acting locally, and it strikes me that many of them may take a narrow view of the meaning of the power to vary these orders. It may be a question as to what comes under the power of variation, and I think it would be far better to state definitely what we would have done. With all deference to the opinion of the Attorney General, I think the House would do well to accept the Amendment.

Question put, and negatived.

Amendment proposed, in Clause 11, page 6, line 35, after the word "not," to insert the words, The expression 'place of safety' includes a workhouse and any place certified by the local authority for the purposes of this Act."—(The Attorney General.)


I would suggest to the Attorney General, whether it would not be well to insert the words "suitable place for the detention of children," as being more definite than "for the purposes of this Act?" I apprehend that the expression "place of safety" only contemplates this object?


I venture to think that "for the purposes of this Act" is the more appropriate form. I quite agree that the effect is to provide a place where a child can be suitably detained, having regard to the purposes of the Act. It will be the duty of the Local Authority to certify that the place is suitable.


I think some difficulty may arise on this point as to what is a place of safety. I should like to know why, from beginning to end, the best places of safety should have been altogether ignored. I mean industrial schools, where, under proper control and training, children are taught to become useful citizens. In what institution could these children be better placed? From first to last there have been vague allusions to places of safety all over the country, but how are they provided? Who is to pay for them? How are they to be certified as safe? Are they to be conducted by people for profit? Do they now exist? It seems to me the most desirable places are industrial schools, such as we have all over the country. I do not know where the children would have better guardianship or instruction combined. Do not suppose I wish the children to be sent to reformatory schools, nothing of the kind; I would not have the least taint of crime attach to them; but I would give them the opportunity of starting upon useful careers. I venture to ask the Attorney General would he consent to introduce the words "industrial school" in his Amendment after "workhouse?"


It is only by the indulgence of the House I can reply. I do not want to enter into the question of industrial schools. I would leave it to the Local Authority to determine the places, and whether it is or is not desirable to include industrial schools among them. Perhaps it would meet the case if we add the words "by bye-law under this Act," and I beg to move that addition.

Question proposed, to amend proposed Amendment by inserting after "certified," the words "by bye-law under this Act."

* MR. ISAACS (Newington, Walworth)

I would at this point appeal to the right hon. Gentleman who has charge of the Bill to say whether the time has not arrived when he can afford us some information as to the institu- tions which, as he has given us to understand, exist all over the country where these children can be cared for and instructed? I agree with my hon. Friend the allusions to these institutions, up to the present, have been somewhat obscure. Can he give us some information as to the class of institutions to which the custody of children under this Act will be entrusted?


It will be for the Local Authorities to certify that the places are suitable, and if they do not satisfy themselves as to the suitability of any other place, the workhouse is the resource. But I do not imagine they will find any difficulty, for it is well known there are very suitable and well-managed homes and refuges set up and maintained by private charity in all parts of the country.


There is an objection to the introduction of the words "Industrial school," because in conferring a new power of committal to these institutions, the question of Government grants and many other complications will arise with which I do not think we are now ready to deal.

Amendment to Amendment agreed to.

Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Amendments proposed, Clause 11, page 6, leave out lines 41 and 42, and insert "Indictable Offences Act, 1848;" page 7, line 13, after "authority," insert— As regards any burgh in Scotland being either a royal burgh or a burgh returning or contributing to return a Member to Parliament, the town council, and as regards any country in Scotland exclusive of any such burgh, the Commissioners of Supply."—(The Attorney General.)

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments proposed, Clause 13, page 7, leave out lines 22, 23, and 24, and insert—"31 and 32 Vic. c. 122, Section 37 of 'The Poor Law Amendment Act, 1868,' is hereby repealed;" page 7, line 26, leave out "any," and insert "the;" page 7, line 29, leave out "any," and insert "the."—(The Attorney General.)

Amendments agreed to.

Amendment proposed, Clause 13, page 8, leave out the Schedule.—(The Attorney General.)

Amendment agreed to.

Bill ordered to be read the third time to-morrow.