HC Deb 13 August 1894 vol 28 cc879-82

Order for Committee read.

MR. JOHN BURNS () Battersea

said, he was anxious to see the Bill passed; hut inasmuch as this Consolidation Bill from the Lords altered the age limit as laid down in the Act recently passed, he must object to it.


said, his hon. Friend was mistaken, the Bill did nothing of the kind, and if he would allow the Bill to go into Committee he would assure him on the point.


said, he should certainly object to any such alteration.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1.


said, he had given notice of a couple of Amendments, one of which had a bearing upon the question just raised, but he was anxious that the Bill should pass, and would do nothing to block its progress by insisting upon his right to move an Amendment. He understood that the Government would not listen to any Amendment as being contrary to the understanding in relation to a Consolidation Bill. Not objecting, therefore, to the Bill proceeding, he must insist that the age limit should not be altered.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 2.


said, that upon this clause a good deal of misapprehension had arisen. By the passing of the Bill of the present Session, introduced by his hon. and learned Friend (Sir R. Webster), alterations were made upon three points in Sections 1, 5, and 6 of the Act of 1889, but no alteration was made in the age of children in respect to offences mentioned in the third section of that Act, and those parts of Clause 2 of the present Bill, which had reference to offences under the third section of that Act, necessarily kept the age of the children as it was left by the former Act—boys under 14, girls under 16. It had been suggested to him that the Interpretation Clause in the Act of the present Session made some difference where it interpreted a child as meaning under 16; but this interpretation was to prevail except where the context otherwise required, and Section 3 of the Act of 1889 plainly and clearly set forth that boys must be under 14, and a child under 14 could not by reason of the Interpretation Clause become a child of 16. Tins point was raised before the Joint Committee. It was possible there may have been some mistake in the Act of this Session, but it would be amending and not consolidating the law unless there were inserted the words "boys under the age of 14." There was no Interpretation Clause in the present Bill, for the reason that in one place a child of 14 was spoken of, in another of 16, and in another of 11, and nowhere was the word "child" left to be interpreted as a child under 16. It would be found that the word "child" in the later clauses meant child in respect to whom an offence was charged in the earlier part of the Hill. In cases under Section 3 of the Act of 1889 would be meant boys under 14, girls under 16, and all other cases would be governed by the Act of this Session.


thought the matter was not unimportant. There were eases where boys under 16 were to be permitted to be subjected to all the influences, dangers, temptations of being in a public-house at night, and so forth. From the account of the Attorney General it did appear that this matter had been considered, and that a broad line of distinction had been drawn, as he thought, wrongly, and so probably did others, but in the position that this was a Consolidation Bill only, and that of necessity it must go forward this Session, he supposed they must bow to the inevitable. If his hon. Friend the Member for Battersea did not press his desire to include boys under 16 within the protecting clauses of the Act he would not attempt to prevent the Bill passing. Still, he knew there was a strong feeling among many Members that boys up to the age of 16 ought to be entitled to the same measure of protection as girls under 16, and if this Consolidation Bill were allowed to go forward, perhaps the Attorney General would be good enough to consider the possibility of bringing in an amending Bill next Session. There were other points to be considered, and seeing there had been so near an approach to unanimity as to the object of this legislation there would probably be no difficulty in carrying through an amending Bill.


said, he had only objected because it appeared to him there was an intention in the Bill, which was merely a Consolidation Bill, to alter the principle upon which the age was laid down in the Bill passed earlier in the Session. It did seem to him that the legal advisers of Her Majesty's Government might have seized the opportunity of the Lords' Consolidation Bill to make the age throughout all the clauses and for all offences 16 years. But the balance of advantage was in favour of the Bill being allowed to go through, and rather than block it he would waive all objection, but to the sympathetic mind of the Attorney General he commended the subject, and hoped he would introduce an amending Bill next Session.


said, of course his hon. and learned Friend could give no undertaking of that kind for next Session. To adopt any other course than had been pursued with the present Bill would have been to depart from lint usual practice in regard to Consolidation Hills. The Bill accurately represented the clauses as they appeared in the Act passed in the present Session, and though personally he quite sympathised with the view expressed by his hon. Friend, and did not understand why the distinction in age should have been made, yet, however desirable it might seem to make the change, to do so would be to forsake precedent and to introduce controversial matter into what was simply a Consolidation Bill and nothing else.


asked the right hon. Gentleman whether there was any reason to expect that, with the volume of statistics, next Session they would be confronted with a repealing Act as well as this?


said, he earnestly hoped not.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 3 to 9, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 10.


said, he had an Amendment to propose to this clause; the addition of words to bring the clause into strict conformity with the existing law, the utmost care having been taken to secure that no more than this was done.

Amendment proposed, in page 9, line 22, after the word "health," to insert the words or that any offence mentioned in the Schedule to this Act has been or is being committed in respect of such a child.

Page 9, line 25, after "aforesaid," insert or that any such offence as aforesaid has been or is being committed in respect of the child."—(Mr. Asquith.)

Amendments agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining Clauses and Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.