§ "2. £1,168, Supplementary, Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Ireland."
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
This Vote raises a question of very great importance indeed, and I desire at the very earliest opportunity to bring the matter under the attention of the House. We in Ireland have a most serious grievance to complain of against the Executive Government on account of the action taken by them during the month of October last, by which they have undertaken to completely revolutionise, and I fear, if it is persevered in, to utterly destroy, the system of industrial schools in Ireland, which is one of the few institutions of that country which affords satisfaction to everybody, and does unquestionably an immense deal of good. The action to which I allude was carried out by a Circular issued by order of the Lord Lieutenant on the 1st October last. I shall first read the Circular, and I shall then explain what the effect of that Circular, if it is persevered in, will be on the whole of the industrial school system of Ireland. This is the text of the Circular issued on the 1st October last. It is signed "D. Harrel"—I am directed by the Lord-Lieutenant to inform you that His Exellency's attention has been called to the fact that owing, perhaps chiefly, to a want of full information regarding the antecedents of children brought up for committal to Industrial Schools, numerous committals have from time to time been made of children belonging to a class for whom detention in an Industrial School was never intended.His Excellency has instructed the inspector to intimate to the managers of the schools that the necessary steps will be taken for the discharge of any child in whose case there is not satisfactory evidence that he or she was a proper subject for committal.His Excellency directs me to state that he considers this step necessary in the interests of the poor children for whose benefit the Act was really intended, but many of whose places in the schools are now tilled fey quite another class.In order to remove any misunderstanding on the subject, His Excellency desires me to explain that he is advised that the Act was designed for the saving of children who, if not rescued from their surroundings, would grow up in vice, and add to the criminality of the country.664Magistrates are only to make an order, 'if satisfied of the fact,' that the child comes within one of the descriptions, and that it is expedient to deal with the case under the Act.Now, that is the text of the Circular, but in order to understand the full effect of that Circular I must explain to the House what has been the working of the Act, and I shall, of course, bear out what I say in that regard by reference to the reports. What has been, the interpretation put upon the Circular by the magistrates, who have complete discretion in administering the Act in Ireland!The Industrial Schools Act in Ireland has been enforced for 30 years, and it is worked, as was stated before one Royal Commission of inquiry, on different principles from those enforced in this country. It has been worked by the magistrates from the outset—and with the full knowledge of the Executive Government in Ireland, who were perfectly aware of the interpretation which has been placed upon it—and, as I intend to maintain, a perfectly correct interpretation—as a preventive Measure; that is to say, in committing children to industrial schools they have considered absolute destitution as one of the circumstances calculated to expose a child to fall into vice and crime, and the industrial schools have been used largely as preventive institutions for the purpose of lessening crime by drying up the well-springs of crime, by taking up the unfortunate, destitute children who might be expected naturally to fall into the temptation of crime if they were allowed to wander about without any supervision at all, or under the control of careless parents. Now the Circular was issued on the 1st of October, and since that date, as I shall show presently, the whole administration of the Industrial Schools Act has been revolutionised by the Circular. The magistrates have taken the Circular—I fancy from the correspondence which followed between the Chief Secretary and Lord Meath, which I shall refer to in a moment—as a direction on the part of the Executive that they were no longer to administer the Industrial Schools Act as it has been administered within the last 30 years with such magnificent results, but that they must now, for the future, practically confine the advantages of the In- 665 dustrial Schools Act to a class who have been described in one of the documents in connection with this matter as associates of thieves—to children, in fact, who are actually in constant association with criminals; and that has been taken as the test. I say that is the interpretation placed on the Circular by the magistrates: I will endeavour to prove that. The consequence has been that the whole system of administration, the whole industrial school system in Ireland has been brought practically to a dead-lock; and the managers of the industrial schools, who, I assume, have not been consulted in that matter, are almost universally in revolt against the change in administration, and assure me that the whole system which has been so beneficial to Ireland is threatened with destruction in its best feature; and that the industrial schools, if this Circular is persevered in, will practically be turned into a set of criminal reformatories. Now, Sir, to show you the importance which is attached to that Circular, before I proceed to point out its effect on the system in practice, I will refer to a correspondence which took place immediately on the publication of the Circular between Lord Meath, who is President at Dublin of a philanthropic association which takes a special interest in the welfare of children, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Lord Meath wrote to the Chief Secretary on the 17th October, 1898, when he said—I desire to bring this important question before the members of the Philanthropic Reform Association, but before doing so would respectfully ask for a more precise description of the class of children referred to in the Circular. It is the more necessary to know this with certainty, because otherwise it is impossible to consider or inquire what alternative method of treating the rejected class is proposed by the Government. Having regard to the general poverty of the country and the great benefits that have arisen from the operation of the reformatory and industrial schools, we consider that any diminution of State aid already granted in respect of destitute children should be carefully guarded against, and I may add that the conviction of the need of increased care for children was one of the principal causes of the formation of this Association.Now, here is the reply of the Chief Secretary. He says—I beg to say that a definition of the children who are proper subjects for committal is contained in the Industrial Schools 666 (Ireland) Act, 1868, sections 11 and 13; the Industrial Schools Act Amendment Act, 1880, section 11; and the Prevention of Crimes Act, 1880, section 12.I may say I have looked at these two Acts. I cannot find the Statute for 1880. Perhaps there is some mistake with regard to the date. However, the chief definition is in the well-known Act of 1868. And then the Chief Secretary goes on to say—Our Circular was intended to throw light upon the proper interpretation of those Acts. The class of children at present in industrial schools, but for whom industrial schools were not intended, are those falling outside the definitions of the above Acts as properly interpreted.That is, I submit, a most extraordinary letter to come from an Irish Chief Sec retary. Because what does it amount to? It amounts to stating that for 30 years the Executive Government in Ire land, under successive Ministers, had grossly misinterpreted this Act of Parliament, and that the whole system which has been in force, and under which large sums of money have been spent, and which, with great success, has been worked for these 30 years, has been based upon a misinterpretation of the Act, which was universal in Ireland until quite recently. Says the Chief Secretary—I do not know that it is possible to define the class more precisely than in this negative way; but, speaking broadly, it comprises children who are merely destitute—that is, the excluded class of children are those who are merely destitute—without being in danger of being absorbed into the criminal population "—Now, the view taken by the Irish magistrates, and by the Executive in Ireland, who were perfectly well aware of the action of the magistrates in that regard, throughout the last 30 years was that destitute children, if they were proved to be really and bonâ fide destitute, were in danger of being absorbed into the criminal population, and I think that was the humane, intelligent, and natural view to take. But that is not the view of the Chief Secretary. He goes on—by reason of their surroundings, and children who ought to be supported and looked after by their parents or proper guardians.667 Now, that is the reply of the Chief Secretary, and that reply amounts to saying that the entire administration of the Act for the last 30 years has been founded upon a misinterpretation of the law. Before I proceed to consider that, and say in a few words what has been the administration, and the results that flowed from it, I will read out to the Committee, in order to prove the importance attached to the whole question in Ireland, the following Resolutions passed by the Standing Committee of the Irish Bishops on the 31st of January, 1899. The Standing Committee say—That we, the members of the Standing Committee of the Irish Bishops, in our own name and in the name of our colleagues, deem it our duty to make a, strong remonstrance against the action of the Irish Executive in excluding from industrial schools, by their recent Circular, numbers of children who are eligible for admission under the terms of the Industrial Schools (Ireland) Act, as universally understood and acted upon up to the present.That is signed by Cardinal Logue and the two Secretaries of the Standing Committee. Now let me turn for a moment to the wording of this Industrial Schools Act, upon which the Chief Secretary has undertaken to put an entirely fresh interpretation. Sections 11 and 13 are the two sections which govern the admission of children into industrial schools. Section 11 says—Any person may bring before two justices or a magistrate any child, apparently under 1he age of 14 years, that comes within any of the following descriptions:—'1. Found begging or receiving alms, whether actually or under the pretext of selling or offering for sale anything, or if in any public street for the purpose of receiving alms. 2. Found wandering in any public street or place without visible means of subsistence.'Now, the Irish magistrates interpreted that to mean that, if they were satisfied in the case of any child brought before them that, while not a criminal, or actually proved to be in association of criminals, he was in a state of genuine destitution—that is to say, his parents were not in a position properly to support him, if it was a case of genuine destitution—then, with the consent of the parents, or if he had no parents, on the merits of the case, he might be committed to an industrial school, on the ground that there was danger of children 668 in that condition being absorbed into the criminal class, and becoming part of the criminal population of the country. Now, Sir, that is the interpretation on which the industrial school system of Ireland has been worked for 30 years, with, absolute satisfaction to all sections of the population—nay, Sir, I will go beyond that, and say, if you look back to the Debates in this House, and study the reports on the industrial school system, you will come to the conclusion that it has been one of the few institutions in Ireland which has been an unqualified success and blessing to the country, and which has received the support and the praise of every section of the community. And, Sir, if it be true, as I believe it is true—I am not very well acquainted with the system in this country—if it be true that the Irish magistrates and the Irish Executive did interpret the wording of the Act in a broader, more charitable, and more liberal sense than it has been interpreted in England, can anybody read the reports of the industrial schools of Ireland for the last 10 or 15 years and deny that such an interpretation has not been magnificently vindicated by the results which have been achieved? And that being so, with no complaint coming from anybody that I have heard of in Ireland, except a Gentleman to whom I shall allude in a few moments, that the new Chief Secretary should undertake, without consulting those who are responsible for the working of this system, and whose opinion certainly ought to have been taken and carefully weighed before a great change was made—that he should undertake, by the issue of a mere Circular from the Castle of Dublin, to turn upside down and utterly revolutionise the whole industrial school system of the country, appears to me to be one of the most monstrous and absurd proceedings that I have ever heard of. Here are some questions, on which I think we are entitled to demand an answer this evening. First of all, why was the Circular issued, and why was it judged necessary, after 30 years of successful experience, to reverse the whole policy which had worked so well and to such enormous advantage to the country? Then, again, I ask whether any of those engaged in the work of the industrial schools of the country were consulted before this great 669 change was made? And I think we are entitled further to ask for a clear definition—much clearer than anything given in the extraordinary letter of the Chief Secretary in reply to Lord Meath—of the class of children who are in the future to be excluded front the industrial schools. And then, finally, I ask: What are the intentions of the Irish Government with regard to the children Mho are now to be excluded from the industrial schools, and who, under the system enforced in the last 30 years, would have been committed to receive the benefits of these schools? I think these are serious questions, and questions which we are entitled to have an answer to. I must turn for a few moments to the working of the system of industrial schools which has been enforced in Ireland now for 30 years. Whether we judge that system by visiting the schools themselves and inspecting the children, or whether we judge it by the reports of the inspectors and by the recorded results as to juvenile crime in Ireland, which has flown from the work f that system, I say there never was a system more triumphantly justified. I assert with perfect confidence that there is no country in the world—perhaps I ought not to say I assert that, because I have not sufficiently travelled over the world to make such a statement of my own knowledge, but I feel confident that there is no country—in which the industrial school system, or what is equivalent to our industrial school system, has produced such good results as regards the happiness, the cheerfulness, and humane treatment of the children as does the system in Ireland. Every stranger who has visited Ireland gives the same account. That is due to various causes. It is due in one respect, I think, to the admirable religious bodies who volunteer for this most difficult work, and who introduce into it an element of homeliness and friendship with the children which is exceedingly difficult to bring into a State institution. I have myself gone into many of the industrial schools of Ireland; and, although it is generally rather a melancholy thing to go into an orphanage or industrial school, I can assure the Committee that in the industrial schools in Ireland the sensation is altogether different. When you go into a, school you find a body of as happy 670 and cheerful and bright-looking children as you would find in any school of the wealthy classes of this or any other country, and that is due partly to the causes I have mentioned; but it is also due to another cause, which this Circular will utterly and absolutely destroy, and that is that the industrial schools of Ireland have up to the present been worked as preventive institutions, and they have been recruited, not from children who were already contaminated with criminality, or from those who have been brought up amongst the very worst possible associations, but from children who have been unfortunately left destitute, and have been taken into the industrial schools, as a rule, in Ireland, before they have been hopelessly, or even to any extent at all, contaminated by their surroundings. One of the things which I denounce is that an endeavour is being made to force on the managers of the industrial schools in Ireland children whom they have hitherto declined to receive, because they are children of the criminal classes, children already contaminated by crime, and who would introduce an element into the schools which has, up to the issue of this Circular, been successfully kept out. I would refer for a moment to the results produced in Ireland by this system of conducting the industrial schools in Ireland previous to the issue of the Circular. In the Report on these schools for 1890, at page 16, Mr. George Plunkett O'Farrell, the then Chief Inspector of the schools, gives some most remarkable and most interesting statistics as to the decrease of juvenile crime in Iceland. In the year 1853 the number of young people—boys under 16 years of age—who were sentenced to imprisonment for terms ranging from 15 years' penal servitude down to imprisonment for 12 months—was 8,888; whereas in 1889, that terrible total had been reduced to 542. The number of girls under 16 years of age who were sentenced to imprisonment for various terms was in 1853, 3,350, and in 1889, 79. I frankly admit that there were other causes to account for this vast difference between 1853 and 1889. The population in 1853 was greater than it is now, and there was then great destitution and famine. But making full allowance for the operation of other causes, I say that the change 671 is an extraordinary testimony to the effect of the industrial school system, in rescuing children from temptations to crime, and from a career of crime, and I think the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary will require to make out a very strong case for justifying the action of the Executive Government in Ireland in spoiling, if not entirely destroying, that system. I could go on to show from other instances the extraordinary good which has been achieved by these schools, but I will content myself with the statistics which I have read out. I will turn for a moment to the effect which the Circular will have, and is bound to have, on the condition of the industrial schools of Ireland. The magistrates have interpreted the Circular to mean that in the view of the Executive they and their predecessors have given a far too generous interpretation to the Industrial Schools (Ireland) Act of 1868, and that in the future no child is to be admitted to the industrial schools of Ireland simply on account of destitution; that there must be some further proof that the children had been either in association with criminals, or that their circumstances are, in a very vague and misty way, of such a character as to endanger them falling into criminal ways. What will be the effect of that? I have been looking through the statistics of the committals to the industrial schools of Ireland, and I find that out of a total of 1,300 nearly 900 were committed for begging. That is an abuse against which the Circular, no doubt, is directed. I admit that the magistrates accepted begging as a necessary preliminary before committing the children for destitution. But the proper remedy to apply for that is to pass a short Act giving the magistrates a discretion to commit the children to the industrial schools without their having been found begging. No doubt, a great number of cases have occurred in which children were sent out begging for the very purpose of getting the children sent to an industrial school. But it is perfectly well known that before the Chief Secretary interfered the system had been working smoothly, and it enabled the magistrates to get these unfortunate, destitute children into industrial schools, instead of driving them into poor-houses, from which they were certain to be turned out utterly worthless members of 672 society. Now, even if it were true that there were abuses, and if the Chief Secretary, as a purist in administration, could not tolerate children being sent out begging for the purpose of being dispatched by the magistrates to the industrial schools, what would be easier than to pass a Bill of a single clause, giving the magistrates a discretion—I do not myself think it necessary under the wording of the Act—but if it were judged necessary, a single clause Bill might be passed, giving the magistrates a discretion to commit children to industrial schools in cases of genuine destitution, without the children having been found begging in the street. That would have been easy, and would have met the difficulty. But instead of reforming in that direction, the Chief Secretary attempts to effect a reform in an entirely different direction, which, so far as I can see, will only destroy the beneficial effects of those industrial schools altogether. Because now, under the interpretation that the magistrates have placed on the Circular, destitute children are to be driven into the poor-house, and denied the advantages of the industrial schools as they had been allowed in the past, and the schools are to be filled with vagrants, the associates of thieves, and more or less tainted with crime. Now I have here in my hand some communications made by the managers of the large industrial schools in Ireland, pointing out the way in which the Circular has worked. First of all, I will allude to a school for girls, founded in 1886, in the county Mayo. The school contains 90 children, and from the day it was founded till now no child has ever been committed for any offence. Only a very few out of all these children were committed to the school on other grounds than destitution. Now all these children would have been denied under the new system the advantages of the school. In another school in the county of Sligo there has not been one single admission since the Circular was issued. The fact is that the Circular has destroyed almost all the industrial schools in Ireland outside Belfast and Dublin, for, according to the Circular, there are practically no children in the country parts of Ireland who are qualified for admission to the schools. In one of the large industrial schools in the neighbourhood of Dublin, I am 673 informed that only four children were I committed since the Circular was issued, although there were 10 vacancies. Three children were committed to this school from the county of Kildare, but children were also entitled to be taken from the city of Dublin, because the Corporation of the city had some years ago contributed towards the support of that industrial school. In one case, before a child could be admitted to the school, the magistrate felt himself bound to send the father to a month's imprisonment for neglecting his children. In the case of two other children who were ultimately admitted to the same school, it was decided that they could not be admitted until after they had spent several nights in the refuge in Dublin. It is perfectly monstrous that children should be forced to spend several nights in a refuge in order that it might be held under this grand now Circular that they had associated with low characters, and had thus qualified for the school. This is the way the Circular is being worked. I do not blame the magistrates, because they must assume that there had been some great defect in the previous administration. Now what is the explanation; what is the cause of all this? All Ireland was satisfied with the old system; it had done an enormous amount of good. It was working smoothly, and nobody complained, as the reports year after year showed. And, undoubtedly, if these children had not been taken into the industrial schools under the old system, it would have cost the State for criminal prosecutions and maintenance in prison a great deal more than had been expended on the maintenance of the industrial schools. I can find no reason for the change except in the Report of 1898, which is signed by a gentleman who has apparently come recently on the scene, and who may be described as a new broom. This gentleman's name is John Fagan. He was not content to follow the humble role of his predecessors, who were held in very considerable respect in Ireland. They confined themselves to reporting on the condition of the industrial schools, and to making suggestions for their improvement. But this gentleman undertakes to survey the whole situation, and to sit in judgment on the whole policy of the Irish Government for the last 30 years in regard to these industrial schools, and he says that the 674 whole system of administration has been wrong, and ought to be altered. I confess I was utterly at a loss to understand the reasons which the Government had for the action they had taken until Mr. Fagan's report came into my hand, and then I found a good deal of light thrown on the whole question. At page 12 of his report Mr. Fagan says—What concerns me most in the way of committals is the question of how to secure for our schools the class of children for whom the Act was mainly intended—the youthful waifs and strays of society, the associates of thieves, and other depraved characters, the hordes of little children in our large cities and towns who pass their day in the streets begging, or selling matches, ostensibly as a means of livelihood, but really as an aid to picking pockets—the children of vagrants and incorrigibly bad parents, in fact, all those whose demoralising environment and training are likely to drive them into vicious courses, and who in a few years will develop into union or gaol birds, corner boys, and accomplished criminals. A change will have to be made in the order of procedure, so as to secure the committal of such children.That is the class for whom the industrial schools of the future are to be reserved; but that was the class which the managers formerly had refused to receive. They worked their system as a preventative system, and I say that the magnificent success of the industrial schools for 30 years was just because they were worked on the preventative system. Then Mr. Fagan goes on to say that—Where poverty exists and the means of earning are wanting, and where these conditions are accentuated by ignorance still painfully evident, crime and predisposition to crime must necessarily be present. I have no doubt this consideration influences magistrates when exercising their discretionary powers in regard to such cases, for they know that in many instances, outside the workhouse, there is no other means of providing for these children; while, at the same time, they are aware of the debasing, demoralising atmosphere of the place, and the rooted antipathy, almost to starvation point, of the decent poor to go there.And yet this gentleman, backed up by the Chief Secretary, proposes, without the sanction of Parliament, and without the slightest consultation with any of those who are responsible for the management of the industrial schools, to drive these unfortunate, destitute children, who, up to the present, were received into the industrial schools, into the workhouses of the country, by shut- 675 ting the doors of the industrial schools in their faces. This is the system which is to be forced down the throats of the Irish people, without their being even allowed an opportunity of stating their opinion on the matter. The whole thing was, in fact, settled in a back room in Dublin Castle, without the slightest opportunity being given to the Irish people of discussing it. Then Mr. Fagan goes on to say that—Neglected children, in the sense of destitute children, are so in many cases not through their own or parents' fault, as much as their misfortune, and the outlook in life for those children on entering the workhouse is a sad one. Their character slowly but surely degenerates owing to the contaminating influences and unhealthy moral atmosphere surrounding them, and many pass into that degraded class of mischievous parasites that prey on the social body and are objects of reproach to our enlightened and philanthropic age.That is what the industrial schools of Ireland prevented in the case of hundreds of children during the last 30 years, and that is what they are to be exposed to under the new sustem. But there is an extraordinary ray of light thrown on the matter by this gentleman. He suggests what he calls the proper remedy.When considering the general subject of neglected children, it occurred to me that the question might be seriously entertained of saving the workhouse child by transforming him into an industrial school child, the process to be accomplished subject to certain conditions satisfactory alike to the general and local taxpayer.…The Government, as heretofore, would contribute towards the maintenance of those proved to be actually or potentially criminal; the ratepayers would provide the rest.…This subject is a fitting one to engage the serious consideration of our new county councils.It turns out, then, that the whole scheme is a scheme to drive these wretched children of the street into the workhouse for the purpose of saving the British Treasury £30,000 or £40,000 a year, and to throw them on to the shoulders of the ratepayers of Ireland. It is quite true that the Government feel bound to drive these children—three-fourths of whom were up to the present day provided for in the industrial schools—into the workhouse, but the county councils may set tip a new system of industrial schools!Now, what is the whole expense of the industrial schools? At present it is 676 nearly £100,000 a year, and I venture to say, without raising any financial question as between Great Britain and Ireland, that there is no money, the expenditure of which has been more productive of good, than that money spent on the industrial schools of Ireland. It would be infinitely wiser for the Government to send over from England someone who would study the Irish industrial schools as they were administered during the past 30 years, for the purpose of introducing the system into England, than to send over a Scotch gentleman to destroy those industrial schools, which have been a blessing to Ireland. And what shall I say as to the gross injustice which it is proposed by this Circular to inflict on those private individuals and religious communities who have erected large school buildings all over the country on the faith of the continued working of the system on the principles which had been observed for the period of 30 years? For the Government now say to these private individuals and religious communities—Unless you utterly alter the whole character of these institutions—unless you accept the class of children which up to the present you have rejected, the grants will be withdrawn, these schools will be starved, and you will be thrown with the schools on your hands without the revenue which you have been accustomed to receive.That is a gross injustice, and I am astonished that the Irish Secretary, without consulting Parliament, and without consulting those who have been working the system in Ireland so successfully for 30 years, should have sprung this mine on us, and revolutionised the whole system of Irish industrial schools. I trust we may have some statement from the Chief Secretary to-night which will be of a more satisfactory character. If not, I can only say that this subject will remain a burning question until a reversion is made to the old system, which worked so successfully for 30 years.
§ MR. DALY (Monaghan, S.)
The industrial schools all over Ireland have been erected by the people of Ireland and by the nuns at great cost; and without any previous communication to the nuns and others who manage these schools, the Government, or, at least, the Chief Secretary, has issued orders that the magistrates shall have no power to send children to these 677 schools unless they are found begging in the streets. That seems to me a great injustice. The schools were built at great expense, in the expectation that the children would continue to be sent as before, on the ground that they were destitute. As the managers and nuns refuse to receive criminals or children tainted with crime, the buildings will be of no use to those who erected them. I think the honourable Gentleman who has spoken before me would have been well advised had he questioned the legality of the action of the Lord Lieutenant in refusing to allow merely destitute children to go into the industrial schools. I have known of merely destitute children who were sent into these schools, and who became respectable members of society, but who would probably have been lost had they not been sent there, but to the work house. I would appeal to the right honourable the Chief Secretary not to be so parsimonious, and not to carry out the new Order. The Bishops of Ireland have protested against this Order of the Lord Lieutenant. They have the interests of their Hocks at heart, and I am sure they would not have passed the resolution they did, condemning the Circular, unless they were convinced that the new Order was inflicting a great hardship on the managers of the industrial schools and on the thousands of poor children. I asked a question about the matter a few days ago, but the reply of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary was not a very friendly one. The Chief Secretary knows well that a great number of children who were sent to these industrial schools have become good members of society afterwards. Some may consider this is a small matter, but it is not, and I would ask the Lord Lieutenant and I would ask the Chief Secretary not to proceed on the new Order as issued, for it will strike very hard on poor children in Ireland.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
The honourable Member for East Mayo has only dealt with, one part of the question; but he has saved me from one part of the task I should have otherwise had to discharge. He has saved me from having to show that the abuses referred to in the Circular existed in Ireland, and that, too, on a large scale. 678 Now, what are these abuses? They are described in two of the paragraphs of the Circular to which the honourable Member referred. The Circular set forth that the Lord Lieutenant was advised that the Industrial Schools (Ireland) Act of 1868 was actually designed to save children who, if not rescued from their surroundings, would grow up in vice, and add to the criminality of the country.His Excellency is further advised that the words 'begging' and 'receiving alms' in Section 11 of the Act are not satisfied by fictitious cases of begging or receiving alms. The practice of sending out children to beg or 'receive alms,' in order to bring them within the letter of Section 11, is calculated to defeat the intentions of the Act, and is an abuse of its provisions. The Section provides that magistrates are only to make an order 'if satisfied of the fact,' that the child comes within one of the descriptions, and that it is expedient to deal with the case under the Act, thus enabling them to refuse to make an order where the alleged 'begging' or 'receiving alms' is a colourable proceeding.These are the circumstances in which the Circular was drafted and issued to the magistrates. The honourable Member must know that this abuse was so widespread in Ireland that the effect would necessarily be to destroy, or almost destroy, the industrial schools in Ireland. Now, the honourable Member for East Mayo has been good enough to say that if the magistrates have hitherto misinterpreted the Act that was an interpretation universal in Ireland until a gentleman came over from Scotland to correct it. I do not myself agree with the honourable Gentleman, but, with regard to the interpretation of the intention and meaning of the Act, the Irish Government acted on the advice of its Law Officers. The honourable Member says that I, and I alone, am responsible for the interpretation put upon the Act in the Circular. I should have thought it was hardly necessary to remind him that when the Irish Government takes action of this kind it is taken on the advice of its Law Officers; it is not I, but the Law Officers who are responsible. At the same time, I must say I entirely agree with the interpretation given by them, and I am firmly convinced that it represents not only the spirit but also the letter of the Act. The Industrial Schools Act was intended to deal, not with children who were merely destitute, but with children verging on criminality. 679 That, in my judgment, is quite certain, and anyone who refers to the Debates which took place on the Second Beading of the Industrials Schools Bill will see that it is so. I will read one extract from the speech of The O'Conor Don, who was in fact the father of the Measure. Here are his reported words—This Bill, it was said, will interfere with the national system of education in Ireland. In the name of common sense how? With what class of children did it deal? With those wandering and begging in the streets—those without any protectors, without any visible means of obtaining a livelihood—with the miserable little wretches at present growing up in ignorance, idleness and crime..... If this Bill be passed, in some isolated instances squabbles might arise as to the religious persuasion in which certain deserted children should be registered; therefore, the Bill should be rejected, and not only those children but all others who would come under its operation should be left neglected and deserted in the streets to grow up in vice, and add to the criminality of the country..... In an economic point of view he maintained that the Bill should be supported. By taking up unfortunate vagrant children, and rearing them in the habits of industry, you diminish the danger of having to support them afterwards as criminals.That quotation shows clearly, in my judgment, that the intention of the House in passing the Industrial Schools Act was not to provide for children who were merely destitute. The words of the Act were, in point of fact, the same as the words of the English Act, and the English Act was never declared to apply to children who were destitute but not verging on criminality. So much for the intention of the Act. Now I come to the statement of the honourable Member, that the interpretation of the Act, which has been given by the magistrates, practically allowed the benefits of the Act to a large number of children who were merely destitute. As early as 1873, a Circular was issued by the Irish Government calling the attention of magistrates "to the serious irregularities which have occurred in the administration of the Industrials Schools Act with respect to the children ordered to be detained," and it was pointed out that "no order for detention can be lawfully made unless the child strictly comes within one or more of the classes defined by law, and that before any order for detention magistrates ought to satisfy themselves by careful examination of the evidence 680 laid before them that the child is a fit object for an industrial school." That Circular proved insufficient to check the growing mischief. It was followed about 20 years later by a Royal Commission to inquire into the operation of the Industrial Schools Act. This Commission reported in 1884, and on page 50 of the Report is stated that—It is certain that the certified industrial schools in Ireland are regarded as institutions for poor and deserted children rather than those of a semi-criminal class.…and that numbers of the children are sent to them who do not always come within the purview of the Acts, and who are sent mainly on the ground of destitution.The Report goes on to say that notwithstanding the check which the Treasury bad applied by fixing a limited number of children for each school—There can be no doubt that many children are sent to the industrial schools in Ireland who would not be sent in England; whilst in consequence of it, it is to be apprehended that numbers of children who are proper subjects for these institutions are left on the streets as waifs and strays.I do not intend to detain the Committee at any great length, but I should like to refer to some of the evidence given before that Commission. The evidence taken by that Commission showed how generally the Act had been abused. Mr. O'Donnell, the Chief Magistrate of Dublin, was asked—Do you think that children are ever sent out into the streets to beg in order to qualify themselves to be sent to an industrial school?He replied—I have no doubt of it. I know that it is constantly done in order to bring them under that section of the Industrial Schools Act.Then in Belfast, one of the leading magistrates, Mr. Robert L. Hamilton, expressed a similar opinion, and he gave one very remarkable example from his own experience—I have seen in the Belfast Police Courts a child taken out of the Court with a whisper given to the man who was bringing him forward to say that he had given alms to the child. The child and the man went out to the passage, and he came in and got into the 681 box and swore that he gave alms to the child; but the money was only given in the passage, and it was given in order to qualify the child.Again, Mr. Patrick Kennedy, a magistrate and ex-Mayor of Cork, said—As each ease had to be investigated by a Committee of the corporation of which I was a member, it came to my knowledge that the classes of children that were in the schools were not what I thought the Act was intended for; that is to say, under the proper conception of the spirit of the Act, which in my opinion was not for the purpose of making the industrial school a kind of upper workhouse. What I understand it to be is a kind of stepping-stone between the homes of those poor children and the reformatories. In other words, to rescue them from vice if they were on or approaching to the borders of it; and in that way it appeared to me that very few of that class of children came either before the magistrates or before the corporations, or, in fact, got inside the walls of these schools at all. My own opinion at the present moment is, that an extremely large proportion of the children in those schools are such as the Legislature never intended to be there, and that at this moment, so far as Cork is concerned, there are a great many children wandering on the streets, and probably being led into bad company and into vice from day to day, who are not in the schools, who ought to be there.Sir, these quotations show absolutely beyond the possibility of doubt that the Circular which has been so strongly condemned to-night puts forward what I maintain to be the true interpretation of the Act, which was also quite clearly stated by the Commission appointed in 1882, of which The O'Conor Don was a member, and also by the evidence of the witnesses before that Commission. The Report of the Commission of 1882 was, I am sorry to say, almost as inoperative as the Circular of 1873, and in May 1896 a further Circular was issued from Dublin Castle. That Circular was much more explicit than the Circular of 1873, and the interpretation of the Act which the Circular now under discussion points out was stated with the utmost clearness. The Circular stated that the Lord Lieutenant had reason to believe that children who were not pauper subjects were brought before magistrates at Petty Sessions with the object of having them admitted to industrial schools. The usual device was to send out such children to beg, and the magistrates were thus misled. That Circular clearly showed what were the proper 682 qualifications for admission to industrial schools.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Yes, that's the pity of it. No one paid any attention to that Circular, but the honourable Member has no right to state that the Circular now under discussion is an exercise of my arbitrary way, and that it is I who have stated that this and no other must be the interpretation of the Act. That the honourable Member is not entitled to say. Now I think that I have shown the House quite clearly what was the intention of the Act. That intention is thoroughly understood by all who have studied the subject, and it is not true that it has not been consistently acted upon; but honourable Gentlemen argue, that, although this may be the case, it is naturally inexpedient to change the existing practice. The first question is, whether the existing practice is, or is not, in accordance with the law? Clearly it is not. Seeing that a departure from the intention of the Act is admitted, that it entails very great expense on the taxpayers of the country, because they are called upon to maintain children who are merely destitute, seeing also that, according to the abundant testimony of those who have investigated the results of the operation of the Act, the children whom the Act is intended to benefit have not received any benefit from it, I ask the Committee if the Government was not justified in taking steps to remove that practice? I have clearly shown that a warning was given by Circular in 1873, by a Royal Commission in 1882, and by another Circular in 1896, of what might be expected. The honourable Member says that the class who will really suffer if this change is made are the destitute children now provided for in industrial schools, but who will henceforth have to go to the workhouses. I cannot, of course, help reeling that the case of these children is a very hard one. I am perfectly ready to admit that the practice of sending the children of poor parents to industrial schools instead of to workhouses, has been to the benefit of these children, but it has been to the benefit of these children only at the expense of the semi-criminal class, for 683 whom the Act was intended. Therefore, while considering the benefits derived by the children of very poor parents in Ireland, I have also to consider that this Act was passed for a deliberate purpose, and that that purpose has been frustrated by the present practice. The Act was passed for children on the verge of criminality, but it has only provided for another class whom the law provides for by means of the workhouse. The honourable Member says that it is a very undesirable state of things, that the children of very poor parents should be compelled to go to the workhouses, and he states that the law should be changed to enable industrial schools to take in children whose only qualification is that they are destitute.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
There is something to be said for that contention, but it is directly against the principle recognised in the treatment of the poor in this country.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I beg the honourable Member's pardon. The existing practice has been regarded as an abuse of the law.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
If I am the first man who ever attempted to stop the practice, I can only say I am the first man who has attempted to remove a very great abuse of the law. If the policy of this Circular is carried out, and if it is proved that the case of destitute children in Ireland is one which calls for further legislation, why that is the time to consider legislation. I may remind honourable Members that last Session there was passed an Act which, to some extent, not perhaps fully, provides for such cases, because it enables boards of guardians in Ireland to send children to any school certified by the Local Government Board, and among the schools so certified, no doubt, will be industrial schools. 684 Under the existing law, therefore, it is in the power of boards of guardians to send pauper children to industrial schools recognised by the Local Government Board.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Oh, no; no grant. The effect of this Circular will be that Government money will be used for the purposes of the Act, and not for purposes for which it was not intended.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
If a change of the law is required to cope with the case of destitute children in Ireland, then let the law be changed, but let us not in the meantime relieve the destitute at the expense of the State under cover of an Act of Parliament which was passed for an entirely different purpose.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
The question raised by my honourable Friend is one of very great importance indeed. It affects the lives of a large number of growing children in Ireland, and, in addition to that, it affects what I may call, in the highest sense of the word, a large number of philanthropic interests in Ireland. The right honourable Gentleman in his speech never got to the realities of the case. He has told us a great deal about the legalities, or what he believes to be the legalities, but he has not touched upon the realities of the case. Let me endeavour to bring before the Committee the realities. There are scattered over Ireland a number of institutions for the purpose of dealing with these children. These institutions are mainly, if not entirely, in the hands of religious bodies, and these religious bodies, influenced by the highest, noblest and most spiritual motives, have been able to erect a large number of buildings, maintain a large number of schools, and bring up one or two generations of children. They have done so by assistance received from two or three different sources. They have, it is quite true, a grant from the Imperial Government. The honourable Gentleman opposite asked a very awkward 685 question from the Chief Secretary. I think that such a firm supporter of the Government should have been more careful than to have asked such an awkward question. These institutions have been partially supported by a grant of 5s, per head, and by the use of certain loans, but the main body of the work has been done by the voluntary subscriptions of the co-religionists of these bodies. Take the case of the industrial school in the constituency of my honourable Friend. That school was erected at a cost of about £8,000, every penny of which came from the pockets of the co-religionists of the religious order which erected the school. Take the other case mentioned by my honourable Friend the Member for South Monaghan—that school was erected at an expense of £1,500, and every penny of it came from the co-religionists of the body who erected it. Here are institutions erected at the smallest possible cost to the State, from the best of motives, and at the expense of one of the poorest populations in the world. These schools all over Ireland have devoted themselves to the rescue of children from vice and crime. They have done so at immense cost to the religious orders and their co-religionists, and small cost to the State. What has been the result? In Ireland, which controverts almost everything, there is regarding the merits of these institutions, from Catholic and Protestant, from Unionist and Nationalist, from every section of opinion in the country, one uniform, unbroken chorus of praise for the good work of the industrial schools. I was only once in my life in an industrial school in Ireland, and although it was 27 or 28 years ago, the cheerful faces and the healthy frames of the children still remain in my memory. I come now from the popular sentiment to official opinion. A report was issued as far back as 1890, in which the remarkable statement was made by the Gentleman who drew it up that no fewer than 19,000 honest citizens had been given to Ireland by the action of these industrial schools, and that 90 per cent, of the children in these schools did well in after life. Now, I confess that it appears to me incredible—I find it hard to imagine—how any official finding that state of things before him, and especially a Conservative official, should consider it his duty to tear down the whole fabric of 686 such great benefit. The Chief Secretary talks of previous Circulars. Has one of them been ever acted on? They were issued from time to time; we are accustomed to them in Ireland, and no one pays any particular attention to them. But now we are face to face, for the first time, with the serious attempt made by the right honourable Gentleman, who I may say brings a certain amount of academic pedantry to the discharge of his duties, to destroy and break down this beneficent Act. The right honourable Gentleman's defence takes two forms. The first is, that he is trying to have the law carried out. Well, Sir, with regard to that defence, I will say that I think it is the meanest, stupidest pedantry in the political life of any country if you find a system working well and beneficently, as these industrial schools have been working, to break it down, although it has been established for 30 years, merely because it happens to be not exactly in accordance with the technical interpretation of an Act of Parliament. An honourable Member opposite smiles at that observation. Is there, Sir, to be no difference between the practical conduct of life, and the technical interpretations of legal experts? I do not care myself whether the law is carried out technically or not. I put against the technical interpretation of the law, the practically unbroken experience of 30 years, and if this system has proved beneficial, and the Chief Secretary cannot deny it, and if it has rescued 19,000 children from vice and given them back to honesty, why, Sir, it is the silliest nonsense to speak of it as one which should be broken down because someone, reading the law in Dublin Castle in the spirit of a criminal prosecutor, finds that this beneficent fabric of charity, philanthropy, and restoration to honesty ought to be torn down. Has the law been broken? I am very unwilling, not being a lawyer, to put my interpretation of the law in opposition to that of the very able Gentleman who at present holds the office of Attorney-General for Ireland; but I must read the section of the Act of Parliament in order to see whether or not the right honourable Gentleman's interpretation is borne out by the words of the Act. Those words are—Any person may bring before the Justices any child apparently under the age of 14 years that comes within any of the following 687 descriptions, namely, that is found begging or receiving alms, whether actually or under the pretext of offering for sale anything, or being in any street or public place for the purpose of so begging or receiving alms.If a child is found begging, ipso facto, it comes under this Act, and I hold that the Attorney-General is going behind the words of the Act when he introduces the question whether or not the child has been sent out by its parents to beg. I do not speak on legal grounds; I do so on grounds of public policy and common sense. Secondly, the section says—Not having any home or settled place of abode, or proper guardianship.Is the guardianship of a parent who sends out a child to beg in the streets a proper guardianship? Again, the section says—Or visible means of subsistence.Does not that cover the whole case? The magistrates have held, and have held rightly, as I submit, from the still higher point of public utility, that mere destitution brings the child within the purview of the Act. If that is not so, what is the meaning of the words—Without visible means of subsistence, or without proper guardianship or place of abode"?The case is quite clear, even on the narrow and technical ground of the language of the Act. But I come back to the point upon which I have already spoken, and that is the point of public policy. This Act was intended to rescue children from crime, and to bring them up good citizens under the guardianship of the State, instead of bad citizens under the guardianship of bad parents. It is said that the fact that a parent sends a child out to beg is a reason why that child should be excluded from the benefits of the Act. But can there be a worse parent for a child than that? Can there be a home more calculated to lead to criminality than a home from which a child is expelled for the purpose of going out to beg? Surely, these are exactly the children, with semi-quasi criminal surroundings, whom the Act is intended to rescue. I get back again to the point that must never be lost sight 688 of; that is, that we have had this system working for 30 years, not only beneficently, but to an extent which has never possibly been paralleled in any institution. And merely because the Attorney-General takes what I regard as a narrow and, if he will allow me to say so, a pedantic interpretation of the section, that splendid system is to be destroyed, and these buildings, every stone of which is a testimony to hours of prayer and suffering and appeal, are to lie idle, to give up the work they are doing, and to have the children expelled. Does the Chief Secretary see where his policy is leading? These children are to be sent to the workhouses, and that is what the right honourable Gentleman's policy means.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Yes, it is evident that you are thinking of the miserable 5s. which comes from the taxation of the country, and not of the good work of these schools or the future of the children. On the one side you have the school, with the monk or nun, or very often with the good Protestant man or woman, who is willing to bring the children up, it may be partly at the cost of the State, but purely as, their conception of their high services to the Divine; and on the other side is the workhouse, where the refuse of humanity is to be found, and where the very atmosphere is destructive of every high and noble motive for self-respect and religious duty, honesty, and self-help. And this beneficent Chief Secretary prefers that the child should be sent into the demoralising surroundings of the workhouse, rather than into the monastery or the convent, where the monk or the nun can take care of its education. The Chief Secretary says the taxpayers are to be saved something. Yes, Sir, but are we to regard all this work for the benefit of the children of Ireland merely from the point of view of saving something to the taxpayer of England? Are you to bring about the destruction of the Irish child for the 689 sake of a reduction of one millionth part of a farthing in the taxes paid by the English taxpayer? I believe that the judgment of every right-minded man, even in his own country, will be adverse to the action of the Chief Secretary. The final point which has been made is that a number of the children who ought properly to be sent to these schools are excluded under the present system. But not a word of proof has been given of that. It is a purely imaginary statement; it is a hypothesis which exists only in the imagination of some official. I hope that the right honourable Gentleman will not break down this system, that he will leave something standing in Ireland, and that, above all, he will leave standing that fabric which, for 30 years, before ever Ireland had the misfortune to be governed by him, had saved children from all the temptations of vice and crime.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
It appears to me, from the speech to which we have just listened, that the Irish industrial schools are not being used for the purposes for which they were originally intended, and that class of children for whom they were to provide do not find their way into them. It was intended undoubtedly to deal with the cases of children who were the associates of reputed thieves, and the history of these Acts shows that they were not intended for that class of children whose parents were so mean as to send them out to beg, and who obviously wished to shuffle their parental obligations from their own shoulders to the Exchequer. It is that class of children who are sent into the streets merely to qualify them for committal to the schools. And, certainly, the Act ought not to apply in such cases. If the Government were to try and seek to persuade this House to repeal those clauses of the Industrial Schools Act applying to the three kingdoms which refer to children merely found begging, I think they would obtain the hearty support of the most sincere philanthropists in the United Kingdom. No one means to question the excellence of the work done by these institutions. All that has been shown—and I am inclined to think that the clients of the honourable Member opposite will thank him very little for 690 showing it—is that these excellent and praiseworthy people have not done the work which really they are intended by Parliament to do. The good work done has been done among the less difficult class of pauper children, to the neglect of those little ones who, falling just short of needing reformatory treatment, are exactly those whom Parliament intended to benefit.
§ MR. HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
I had hoped that the right honourable Gentleman who last spoke, when he rose to address this House, would, as an English lawyer, have been able to satisfy us that no Circular similar to that which is now in question had been issued for the control of any English bench of magistrates, and that no decision had been arrived at by the Court of Queen's Bench in England putting this particular construction upon the Industrial Schools Act. It is quite true that the Irish Act is borrowed from the earlier English Act. This discussion, I think, affords a very striking illustration of the system of Castle government in Ireland, which has led to such discontent for centuries. I, as a lawyer, protest altogether against the authority assumed by the Chief Secretary in this Circular to dictate to the magistrates as to what construction they shall put upon an Act of Parliament. The law enables a decision to be taken on any doubtful section. I think, with my honourable Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool, that this section is abundantly clear. But, assuming for argument sake that there is some doubt as to the interpretation to be placed upon it, it is the duty of the magistrates to reserve a case for the Court of Queen's Bench, or it is the duty of the Irish Executive to bring in an Amending Act of Parliament. I protest altogether, as magistrates act as judges within their own jurisdiction and upon their own responsibility, against their being dictated to as to the construction to be placed on statute law, and being asked to reverse what has admittedly been the practice between 1868 and 1898. It is that species of dictation which has produced such discontent and dissatisfaction with the administration of the law in Ireland in years past. Some years ago there was, as the right honourable Gentleman will recollect, an officer in Dublin called the 691 Law Adviser, whose function it was to advise magistrates as to the construction to be placed on Acts of Parliament. But that was found to be unconstitutional, and so the office' was abolished. Yet, now that the office has been abolished, we have the Government sending out a letter which leads to either one of two things—it will be acted on, or it will be ignored. Independent magistrates may refuse to act upon it; and even if they were warranted in so doing it would require a good deal of courage, as the Lord Chancellor might call them over the coals. I should like to ask English magistrates in this House if they would like to act on the mere opinion of any lawyer, however eminent, when it became their duty to discharge judicial functions. The Act is express as to what magistrates are to do when a child coming under a given description comes before them. They are given judicial discretion, but are bound before sending a boy to an industrial school to be satisfied on the evidence whether it is a case of bonâ fide begging or not. We have had no such evidence produced, but I presume that the Chief Secretary is in possession of some to show that the industrial schools have been in the habit of receiving children who were bribed to go into the streets to beg. But it is for the magistrate to decide whether the child comes within any of the definitions of the section, and once the judicial conscience is satisfied that the child comes within the category, power is given to make an order for its detention. We have heard from the Chief Secretary a good deal about the intentions of the Legislature, and the right honourable Gentleman has read passages from the Debate which took place when the Act was passed. But we have nothing to do with these intentions except so far as they can be gathered from the words of the Act itself. The truth is, it is impossible to construe the meaning of the words of any Act by reference to the Debates, for we all know how loosely Members or, both sides of the House at times express themselves in the heat of argument. The right honourable Gentleman has referred to two Circulars—one issued in 1872, and the other in 1896. But neither of those Circulars purposed to dictate to the magistrates what construction they were to put on the Act of Parliament. 692 Both of the Circulars properly called the attention of the magistrates to their duty under the Act, and pointed out that they were not to make an order for detention unless the child before them came within the categories mentioned in the Act. Under the Petty Sessions Act, with which practically this Act is incorporated, power is given to the justices, if they have any doubt as to the construction of the Act, to reserve a case for the Court of Queen's Bench. I protest as a lawyer, and as one who is devotedly attached to the constitution of the country, that no law adviser to any Chief Secretary has a right to put a construction upon an Act of Parliament and to dictate to the magistrates that they shall follow that construction. The Court of Queen's Bench is there to set matters right if they go wrong. This is an attempt to shift from the Consolidated Fund on to the altogether over-burdened occupying taxpayer in Ireland the sum which the State has hitherto contributed to the support of these schools, and it is a significant fact that this Circular synchronises with the passing of the Local Government Act. The effect of this Circular must be to confine the operation of the Act to a very small class of children. I am happy to say that the number of children who may be described as the associates of criminals is in Ireland very small. It may be that in Dublin there are such children to be found; as to that we have the ipse dixit of a Dublin magistrate. It has been suggested that the great masses of children throughout the country would not be reached if this new construction of the Act were enforced, and that it would relieve the Exchequer of a largo portion of the sum it has now to contribute to the maintenance of the schools, while children who are really destitute and fit and proper subjects to be sent to these institutions would be left to starve outside, or would be taken into the workhouse, and ultimately sent to school at the expense of the ratepayers. I trust that on reconsideration my right honourable Friend, who acts, of course, on the advice of his proper legal adviser—which I will not presume to call in question here, although I have my own opinion, as I think that the functions of the executive are distinct from judicial functions—will now recall this Circular, and 693 let a system go on which, from my own experience, has worked so well. During the time I was in office it was never suggested, or thought for one moment, that there was any abuse by the magistrates in any part of the country of the intentions of the Legislature as embodied in this Act, and I trust we shall be relegated to the same state of things, and that my right honourable Friend, in that magnanimous spirit we all know he can display, will admit for once that he has been ill-advised.
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. ATKINSON,) Londonderry, N.
I should not have trespassed on the time of the Committee were it not for the speech which we have just heard from the right honourable Gentleman, who was himself at one time a, responsible legal adviser to the Government of Ireland. My right honourable Friend need have had no apprehension of any design or intention on the part of the present Government to dictate to the magistrates what they are to do. Such an effort, if it were made, would be absolutely futile, and no Circular sent out from the Castle could in any way circumscribe the jurisdiction which the magistrates have had conferred on them by statute, and neither could it in any way extend it. It is, therefore, a travesty to say that this Circular is an effort on the part of the Government to dictate to the magistrates. It was designed with an entirely different object. For years this statute, according to its plain and obvious meaning, has been misapplied: it has been administered for the benefit of a class for which it was never intended, by means of contrivances, or what might be called frauds, upon it, although no doubt those frauds were committed with a good purpose. All this Circular does is to tell the magistrates that they are not to be misled in such cases. The first sub-section of the statute deals with the case of children begging or receiving alms. The honourable Gentleman the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool said that if the statute enacts that a, child who solicits alms is to be sent to an industrial school, it is monstrously pedantic to suggest that cases of fictitious begging do not come under it. All that the Circular has done is to call the attention of the magistrates to 694 the fact that the Act is abused, and diverted from its proper and primary purpose, by allowing certain children who are sent out to beg with the object of securing their committal—
§ MR. ATKINSON
The honourable Member should read the Circular. It states distinctly that His Excellency has been advised that the words "begging or receiving alms" under section 2 of the Act are not satisfied by fictitious cases of begging or receiving alms, and that the practice of sending out children to beg or receive alms, in order to bring them within the section, is calculated to defeat the intention of the Act and to abuse the provision.
§ MR. DILLON
I have read out the Act of Parliament, which is intended also to cover the case of those who are found without visible means of subsistence.
§ MR. ATKINSON
There is no such clause. But I will deal with the question of begging first. The Act of Parliament provides for that. I do not think any honourable Gentleman will suggest that, if a mother sends out her child, as is frequently done, to beg a penny from a relative or her next door neighbour, that that brings the child within the statute. The Circular is directed against cases of fictitious begging, and tells the magistrates what to do in regard to them. What is the next clause? It is that the child must first be found wandering, or having no place of abode, or proper guardianship. And the words "found wandering" qualify all that follows. The fact is, there is no class entitled to the provisions of this Act simply because they are destitute. Destitution is undoubtedly an element for consideration, but there are other conditions necessarily attached to it, such as "either being an orphan or having a, surviving parent undergoing penal servitude or imprisonment." Destitution alone does not entitle a child to committal under the Act. If the Act has been administered in any other way than this there has been a gigantic misuse of it for the benefit of a class for 695 whom it was never intended. The Reformatory Schools Act was passed in the same year as this Act, and it dealt with children of tender years who had committed crime. The Industrial Schools Act was intended to deal with children on the verge of crime, and to act as a preventive. Destitution alone was never intended to be dealt with by the Act, unless there was the accompanying condition that the child was an orphan or had a surviving parent undergoing penal servitude. I do not think I need go further into this matter. I will only say this. I cannot conceive that it is the duty of any Law Officer of the Crown to give what is called a benevolent interpretation to an Act. His duty is as best he can to advise those who call for his advice as to the legal meaning of the statute. I quite agree with my right honourable Friend opposite that it is not possible to get any assistance in this matter from the Debates. A Law Officer's duty is as best he can to come to a conclusion as to what the statute enacts, and what its authors intended or what was said during the discussion upon it is entirely beside the point. I think at the same time it is only just and right I should add that I do not believe that any person would consider that a statute of this kind, which was intended to rescue a particular class from the fate of becoming criminals, should be applied to another class, no doubt deserving, but of an entirely different kind, who were not verging on the paths of crime. The object of the Circular is not to prevent the administration of the Act, but it is to insure that the Act shall be applied to the class for which it is intended, and not to another class, which, I am quite free to admit, is deserving of great consideration, but which must be dealt with in another way.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
I very much regret the attitude which the Irish Secretary has taken on this question. It will not redound to his own credit, and as far as Ireland is concerned it will work hardship not only to institutions which are admirably conducted, but to a large class of poor children. I do protest against the Government approaching this question from a pounds, shillings and pence point of view.
§ MR. POWER
One reason the right honourable Gentleman gave for his attitude was that the Act was being worked to the detriment of children whom it was intended to benefit. The right honourable Gentleman said that such children were placed at a disadvantage by the fact that other children are committed to the schools. He gave us no figures in support of that statement. As far as my experience goes I never knew of any deserving cases being brought forward for which room was not found in the industrial schools. I maintain that all such cases have been dealt with.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The explanation is very simple. The children for whom the Act was intended are not brought before the justices.
§ MR. POWER
Whose fault is that? It is not the fault of the managers of the industrial schools. One would imagine from the arguments of the right honourable Gentleman that the whole cost of supporting these children falls upon the Imperial Exchequer. But it must not be forgotten that we in Ireland already pay too much to the Imperial Exchequer, and are entitled to have some of it back; and in addition to that we contribute by our rates and by our voluntary contributions to the support of these schools, and thus largely supplement the Imperial grant for the maintenance of these children. I believe that in England industrial schools are largely helped by the Imperial Exchequer, so far as the building of them is concerned, but in Ireland their erection is solely due to philanthropic effort. The present system is working well, and is preventing a great number of children falling into vicious habits. The statistics which have been quoted show that an enormous percentage of these children afterwards turn out to be useful citizens, and that fact alone should make the right honourable Gentleman hesitate before adopting a policy which will work disadvantage to the community in general, and in still greater degree to the people of Ireland.
§ MR. DILLON
The Attorney-General has drawn a powerful picture of the extent to which the law has been set aside 697 during the time the Industrial Schools Act has been in force. But he must know perfectly well that the officials at Dublin Castle knew perfectly well what was going on. It was a matter of notoriety. Does the right honourable Gentleman pretend that the Government of Ireland were ignorant of the figures contained in the 30 successive reports of their inspectors? His position is that a law passed 30 years ago has been grossly abused, and that the schools have been mainly used for children for whom they were never intended, and he desires to put an end to this process of defeating the Act. I say that that is a fanciful and preposterous position. The Chief Secretary quoted two previous Circulars, and also the speech of The O'Conor Don, as showing the intentions of the Legislature. I do not think it is a profitable way of attempting to interpret an Act of Parliament, even by quoting from the speeches of Ministers, but it is really absurd to do so by quoting from the exceedingly vague speeches of private Members. In the two Circulars referred to by the Chief Secretary, there was no attempt to define the class of children which should be excluded from the industrial schools. Those Circulars were issued with the full knowledge of the Castle, and the general feeling throughout the country was that it was wiser to let things go on as they were, while if there were any doubt as to the interpretation of the law it should have been cleared up by the introduction of a short amending Act. I say that these two previous Circulars do not constitute a precedent for the recent action of the Irish Government. They have made an entirely new departure, and I tell the Chief Secretary that he has stirred up a hornet's-nest. We will not submit to this attack upon one of the best institutions of our country, and we will carry on the campaign against it until the right honourable Gentleman changes his policy. What is it he proposes to do? He admitted that a very grave and serious problem would probably arise as to what was to be done with these children against whom he is now closing the doors of the industrial schools, and for whom there is to be no refuge in the future but the workhouse. Probably some legislation will have to be passed to meet the case of these children, if, for years to come, you are 698 going to drive them at the rate of one thousand or two thousand per year into the workhouses of the country, knowing perfectly well what their fate will be. But what is to be done with them pending that legislation? The only object I can see in this extraordinary revolution of policy is a hope on the part of the right honourable Gentleman that, by the process of driving these children into the workhouses, he will succeed in compelling the ratepayers to take upon their own shoulders that portion of expenditure which is met now by the Imperial grant of five shillings. I say that that is a most mean and contemptible policy, and if the Government wished to make such a small saving, they might have chosen some means other than the ruin of thousands of poor children. I have not the smallest doubt that the effect of this Circular, if carried out in the spirit in which it has been framed, will be to ruin thousands of poor unfortunate children. I say it is not only a grotesque, but it is also a most cruel policy, and one which public feeling in Ireland will speedily and strongly condemn. It synchronises with the coming into operation of last year's Local Government Act, under which the poor rate is made payable by the occupier. As long as the landlords of Ireland had to pay half the poor rate, the Chief Secretary was afraid to introduce such a proposal, but the moment he succeeds in throwing the entire burden upon the occupier, he introduces this new policy. I hope that even now the Irish landlords will be found resisting a proposal so detrimental to institutions which have given such universal satisfaction. The right honourable Gentleman said it was plainly against the spirit of the Industrial Schools Act to admit children who were simply destitute, and he added that it was not the practice in England. So much the worse for England. It would be far more wise and more statesmanlike if the Minister responsible for the care of poor children, instead of attempting to destroy one of the most successful systems ever applied to the destitute children of any country, would send over someone to study that system, with the view of giving children of the same class in England an equally good chance. If the right honourable Gentleman will take my advice, he will withdraw the Circular, and tell the Home Secretary, or 699 whomsoever is responsible, that the system of dealing with destitute children in Ireland is far superior to that obtaining in England, and that he would be wise to send an experienced inspector to examine into the Irish system.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
I wish to dissociate myself from the protest of honourable Gentlemen opposite. I think the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary has shown on this, as on many other occasions, an extreme desire, while endeavouring to carry out the law, to do so in the most satisfactory way. This is an attempt by honourable Gentlemen to place a charge which should rightly fall upon poor rate upon Imperial funds. While we are perfectly prepared to justify an Imperial grant for the reform of the criminal or semi-criminal class, I for one am not prepared to cast upon Imperial resources charges which should fall upon Irish poor rate. Unquestionably attempts are made in various parts of Ireland to send out children to beg in order to qualify them for becoming inmates of industrial schools. We have already had given us the opinion of a Dublin magistrate on that point, and the right honourable Gentleman has also referred to the view expressed by a late lamented friend of mine, Mr. R. Hamilton, who was well known in Belfast as a philanthropic magistrate. It has been shown from these statements that cases have occurred where, even within the precincts of the court itself, children have been given money in order to qualify them for committal. I should like to allude to the fact that, in some parts of Ireland, the object of sending these children to industrial schools managed by monks and nuns is to bring them under the influence of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. I wish to protest against this use being made of the Act. It ought not to be used to spread the Roman Catholic religion, and I therefore hope that the Chief Secretary and the Irish Government will remain firm in their determination to apply this Act solely for the purposes for which it was originally passed. The opinion of The O'Conor Don has been quoted. All who knew that gentleman had a great admiration for his intellect, and will feel this was the right interpretation of an Act for which he was partially responsible. I 700 hope that the Government will not be deterred from doing its duty, but will see that the Act is administered in the spirit of the Circulars recently issued, and will not allow its beneficent object of dealing with a semi-criminal class to be defeated by extending its benefits to those the cost of providing for whom should fall not upon Imperial resources, but upon local rates.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The honourable Member for East Mayo said the effect of the Circular was likely to be so far-reaching as to practically destroy the industrial school system in Ireland. If that is so, then, as I have pointed out, it must be taken as an indication of the extent to which the abuse of the law has been carried. I do not think, however, that that will be the effect of the Circular, and I am persuaded, in spite of the opinions expressed by honourable Members, that the result will be not to prevent the industrial schools in Ireland continuing in the future, as in the past, to do good work.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported.
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN, after the usual interval,