HC Deb 01 April 1908 vol 187 cc560-90

Order road, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [24th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time."

Question again proposed.

*MR. GUINNESS (Bury St. Edmunds)

said that when this matter was discussed last week hon. Members on the Unionist side were criticised for the manner in which they dealt with the details rather than the principles of the Bill. But it was essentially a Bill of details. It gathered up and consolidated all the laws relating to children, and therefore it was essential that on the Second Reading the opportunity should be taken to discuss details and suggest Amendments, so that the Government might have an opportunity of considering them before the Committee stage. So far as the general principles were concerned, no one on either side of the House would be found to quarrel with the Bill. They all admitted that the State must step in and save the children of neglectful, ignorant, and criminal parents, but as all those who were not Socialists recognised that the State was a very blundering substitute for a parent they desired that its functions should be kept in as narrow a channel as possible. He was sorry to see that the Under-Secretary for the Home Department was going to make registration compulsory for single child homes even where periodical payments were made. The opinion of those Members of the London County Council who were in touch with the question of infant-life protection was that a great deal of harm would be done if foster-parents who adopted only one child for periodical payment were included in the operation of the Bill. If the payment was one lump sum it was certainly desirable that there should be inspection, because there the foster-parents had a great and direct advantage in the case of the early death of the child. Where, however, periodical payments were made the parents were in touch with the foster-parents, and it was very often the case that the child was adopted from motives of affection. The Under-Secretary had stated that local authorities would be allowed to make exceptions, but even so the necessity of notification would deter many of those most suitable from adopting a chill, and charitable societies who were trying to reclaim unfortunate women who had had the misfortune to have an illegitimate child would be very much hampered. He hoped the proposed Amendment would be re-considered by the hon. Gentleman. Another suggestion he desired to make was that the local authority should be enabled to veto the taking of more than one child into a home, and to prevent the transference of a child from one home to another. Under the Bill the nurses would have to notify the local authority within forty-eight hours before taking another child, but that was not sufficient. Many cases occurred where women without the means to keep them took three or four children for a lump sum, with the result that when the money was exhausted the children were thrown on the rates. That part of the Bill should be greatly strengthened so as to insure that the local authority would be able to inspect the home before the money was paid and the child taken, and to ascertain that the woman who proposed to take the child had sufficient means to keep it after the payment was exhausted. The next Clause to which he wished to refer was Clause 9, a financial clause. Under that clause the City of London was to be exempted from contributing to the cost incurred by the county of London in connection with infant life protection. Under the Act of 1897, this charge had been thrown into the general county rate, and the City had thus borne its share. If, however, the City was now only to spend money in enforcing the Act within its own boundary, it would avoid contributing to this very necessary work, as, of course, there were few or no such homes in that area. Owing to the large number of women employed in the City who lived in the surrounding districts, the City was partly responsible for this work and ought to make some contribution. The next matter to which he desired to draw attention was the provisions for committing children to industrial and reformatory schools. This matter unfortunately came rather suddenly on the London County Council. The Home Office intimated their intention of bringing in this Bill and asked for suggestions just as the London County Council were going into recess, and it was impossible for that body to transmit their views. But as the London County Council dealt with far more children in the industrial schools than any other body in the country, he might mention one or two points where the Bill required Amendment. The first arose on the clause which allowed children of between twelve and fourteen years of age to be sent to an industrial school for various reasons, but gave no power to commit children between those ages who had been guilty of theft or any offence punishable with imprisonment. It was desirable that such children should not be sent to a reformatory school until after they had reached the age of fourteen. Children did not become hardened criminals until after they reached that age, and it was not advisable that these young children should be sent to reformatory schools which contained youths of nineteen years of age, who might contaminate them. What they wished was that the magistrates should be allowed to send children to industrial schools up to the age of fourteen. It was also provided that where an order had been made in respect of a youthful offender of the age of fourteen years and upwards and no reformatory school would receive him, the Court could commute the order and send the offender to prison. That was not at all a desirable thing, and the power should be limited to children whose characters were known to be so bad that it was undesirable to send them to a reformatory school. The provisions stating that the conditions rendering the child liable to be sent to an industrial school were much the same as the provisions of the present law, but the present law in that regard needed strengthening At the present time it was largely a matter of chance as to whether a child was sent to an industrial or a reformatory school. It very often happened that magistrates refused to send a child to an industrial school, because they did not want to relieve the parents of the expense of supporting it. He could give many flagrant cases of that kind, and he would quote three of them. The first was that of a man who was guilty of flogging his two boys at intervals of half-an-hour for cutting a piece of Christmas pudding, and he had also been condemned twelve months before for a criminal assault on his daughter. Although he was certainly not a fit guardian, the magistrate refused to adopt the suggestion of the London County Council, and to commit the boys to an industrial school. In the case of a little child of four years and ten Months the father did not work but lived by his wife's prostitution, and both parents were charged with being drunk and disorderly. The County Council proposed to send the boy to the Home for Little Boys. Again, a discharge was granted by a different magistrate. Another case was that of a child of seven years. The mother had recently served six months imprisonment, and the father was fined for assault; the child was in a verminous condition. In this third case, also, the magistrate refused to take action under the Industrial Schools Act. It was obvious what the magistrates had in their minds. They did not want to encourage parents to let their children fall into vicious ways in order that they might be sent in an industrial school; but he thought the State should strengthen the law and encourage the magistrates to send children to industrial schools, because he did not think it was fair to punish the parents at the expense of the children. It was very necessary where there was no proper home for the child, and where it was perfectly certain that, unless he was committed to an industrial school, he would be brought up as a criminal, that the magistrates should be encouraged to send him to such an institution. It seemed to him that it was possible to prevent a large number of these industrial school cases by bringing home to the parents the fact that if their children were sent to industrial schools they would lose all control over them. It was very' often asserted that many parents got their children sent to industrial schools in order to be freed from responsibility of keeping them. On some occasions, when he attended the responsible committee of the London education authority, he was startled to find cases it which whole families of children had been sent to the industrial schools. He believed that parents realised that in those schools their children got remarkably good education the standard of the Home Office being far higher than that of the Board of Education. If they looked through the reports of industrial schools they would find that in after life the children who had attended them did extremely well. He noticed that one had become headmaster in the shorthand department of a large college; another had become a Bachelor of Science and manager of large Government works abroad. Many sergeants in the Army and superintendents of police and even justices of the peace and chairmen of boards of guardians had been educated in these schools. No doubt parents realised all this, and were, therefore, content to allow their children to become liable to be sent to them. A great many of these parents had a certain amount of affection for their children, but had no sense of responsibility. He urged that their sense of responsibility could be stimulated by working upon their affections, and by pointing out to them that under this Act, and under the existing law, when once a child was committed to an industrial school they lost all control over him. At present they did not realise that. A great many of them imagined that if a child was sent to an industrial school they still had control, and could say what his avocation was to be. What he proposed was that during the time these children were in the Remand Homes, to enable the local authority to make inquiry into their cases and forward suggestions t other magistrates, the magistrates should, under the law, be compelled to notify to the parents that if a child was sent to an industrial school they lost all control over him, and the boy could be apprenticed or sent abroad without the parents being consulted in the least. He believed that by such means a large number of parents would be induced to look after their children and prevent them from being sent to industrial schools. By Clause 64 it was proposed that the limit for supervision should be nineteen years, but it was felt that this was not long enough, and that a boy should be kept under supervision until he had reached twenty-one years of age. Before that age, there was a considerable prospect of his slipping back into his old ways, and getting into touch with his criminal companions from whom they were trying to reclaim him. He hoped the Home Office would be able to modify that provision. It would cost nothing, or practically nothing, and would cause no inconvenience to the child. As to the question of the expenses of certified schools, he would appeal to the hon. Gentleman to try and do something to lighten the burden thrown on the local authorities. The very heavy cost of the administration of the existing law had deterred local authorities from doing their duty, the fact being that the cost of these schools was steadily increasing, while the Government contribution was fixed twenty years ago. Formerly the local authorities had only to pay 34 per cent of the cost of the schools, whereas today they had to pay 42 per cent. That was no doubt the reason why more children had not been sent to the industrial schools of the country. He would suggest that the whole cost of sending the children of vagrants to industries d schools should be borne by the Exchequer. It was not fair to throw it on the local authority, in whose district the children were committed. The plan he suggested was the only fair way of dealing with it, and the; only way that would encourage the local authority to see that the law was put into operation. As to the question of the expenses of certified schools, he would also urge that the local authorities should be compelled to make arrangements to send children to reformatory schools. He thought the hon. Gentleman agreed to that in the case of industrial schools, but he did not think he had done so with regard to reformatory schools. He did not believe that it would necessitate the building of any fresh schools; there was plenty of accommodation; it would only mean that the local authority would have to make arrangements with the managers of existing schools. On the question of day industrial schools it would be a very great assistance if the Home Department could see their way to adopting a suggestion in the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee appointed in 1905 to inquire into the system of funns for industrial and reformatory schools. The Committee recommended in 1905 that the Government contribution in the case of day industrial schools should be raised from 6d. and 1s., in voluntary and compulsory cases respectively, to 1s. and 2s. He believed that if they did that they would very much encourage the creation of day industrial schools, which were most useful to the children of those parents who were not sufficiently delinquent or neglectful to justify the magistrates in committing the children to certified industrial schools. The London County Council, and, he believed, several other local authorities, were inking a large number of voluntary cases. The Government Inspector had stated in 1905 that it might be that there was a slight tendency to a decline in the numbers admitted into the day industrial schools, and that it was due to the matter of expense. There was no doubt whatever that the day industrial schools were most valuable in preventing children who had no supervision, their mothers being out on day work, from getting into criminal surroundings and eventually becoming a charge on the rates. Another point he would like to urge was that no child should be sent to prison wider sixteen years of age. Under Clause 99 it was proposed that a young person could be sentenced to imprisonment, but he thought that the value of the Bill would be very much increased if prison was confined to those who were over sixteen. He recognised the great value of the provision which would enable constables to arrest the children of vagrant parents and have them committed to industrial schools, but he did not think, unless the clause was strengthened, that it would be of very much use; he was afraid that it would be a dead-letter; and he would suggest that it should be made the duty of the officers in charge of casual wards to notify the police of any cases coming to their notice of children of criminal or vagrant parents who were liable under this provision to be sent to industrial schools. If they left it in the hands of the constables and made it optional, he was afraid that the provision would not be as valuable as it might otherwise be. Of course, his suggestions might be criticised on the ground that they would add to the cost of the Bill, but he believed that it would be money well spent, Of course it cost less to let children run about the streets and become criminals than to send them for a few years to these schools where they would be taught a trade. No doubt it was for the moment cheaper to send them to prison for a month, than to send them to industrial schools for three years; but in the long run it was very much dearer. He thought it was quite justifiable to increase the number of children sent to these schools under the action of the law, and by that means to decrease the number in after life who would have to be supported either in our casual wards or in our gaols. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would be able to embody some of these suggestions in the Bill, for he believed they would increase its efficiency in stopping the sources of physical deterioration, poverty, and crime.

*MR. GULLAND (Dumfries Burghs)

said he would like to join with others in congratulating the hon. Gentleman on the way in which this Bill had been introduced, and especially on his having listened to societies and others interested in the question and given effect to their proposals. It seemed to him that the great beauty of this Bill was that it was framed from the point of view of the children. Many children were in a vicious circle; of environment, and this Bill broke that and replaced it by a virtuous circle; indeed, the Bill was a perfect hospital of life-saving appliances. He would like to take up a few points relating especially to Scotland. The first was with regard to the reformatory and industrial schools. There were in Scotland a great many difficulties in connection with the management and the finances of those schools. The difficulty in Scotland was that those schools were neither fish, flesh, nor good red herring. They were neither State, municipal, nor private. They were a little of each, and the result was that they were extremely difficult to work. He had rejoiced the other day to hear the Under-Secretary say that he would make it mandatory for local authorities to provide industrial school accommodation just as they had at present to provide elementary school accommodation, and that he would make it compulsory for local authorities to contribute to the maintenance of the children. He did not think there was much controversy as to the advisability of the local authority doing those things, and he sincerely hoped the hon. Gentleman would be able to carry out that proposal. The question of the management of those schools remained. That perhaps scarcely came under the purview of the Bill, but it would be wise to transfer the industrial schools, at any rate, to the school boards, so that they would be under somebody's definite control. At present school boards had power to establish industrial schools or to purchase existing ones, but it was not compulsory for them to do so. He knew that that was a big question, but he trusted the Secretary for Scotland would tackle it and settle it in a way which would be thorough and satisfactory. A point that occurred to him in connection with the Bill was the very beneficent nature of the relation of the Acts of the present Government dealing with social reform. For instance, the provisions in the present Bill in connection with the Infant Life Protection Act seemed to work in very well with the provisions of the Notification of Births Acts of last year. He was very glad the hon. Gentleman had said he would accept the Report of the Select Committee and include the inspection of one-child homes. The Report was unanimous, and while due weight was given to the consideration which had been put forward by the hon. Member who had just spoken, all the Members of the Committee were unanimous that the one-child home should be included, and he thought when Members read the Report they would agree that it was on the right lines. One thing that struck him very forcibly was that it might be a wise thing to transfer the charge of this matter from boards of guardians and parish councils in Scotland to town councils and county councils. That was the case in the Act of 1872, and he suggested that with all the greater emphasis because it seemed to him that in many of the parts of Scotland where the Notification of Births Act had been adopted the town councils were appointing lady health visitors to visit the mothers where the births had been notified. It seemed to him that it would help the working of this Act and make it much more thorough if those same ladies were appointed inspectors under the Infant Life Protection Act. The two things would work in very well together, and that might be done if the town council was the authority. Then on the other side the town council was much more in touch with the police, whose aid unfortunately had to be brought in, than the parish council, and he hoped the hon. Gentleman would consider in Committee whether the town and county council might not be substituted for the parish council. Then another relation of a previous Act with the present Bill was the Probation of Offenders Act of last year with the new proposals dealing with juvenile crime of this year. The institution of the children's Courts he very heartily approved of. They had these children's Courts in about a dozen places in Scotland. Public Opinion was very strongly in favour of them and he thought was ready now for their being made compulsory. In 1906, in Scotland no fewer than 9,765 males and 595 females under sixteen years were proceeded against—altogether over 10,000 young persons. To remove these young people entirely from the ordinary police court would be of immense advantage, and he welcomed very thoroughly the provisions of this Bill. In 1906, in Scotland, seventy-three young persons were sentenced to imprisonment, and in addition 249 were imprisoned in default of payment of fines, so that altogether 322 young persons under sixteen years old were put into prison, and received a criminal taint. He was sure the Bill would prevent that. By cutting off crime at the source they would also diminish adult crime. With regard to juvenile smoking that was a new offence, and he for one only agreed to it because young people found guilty of it would not be brought before an ordinary police court or subjected to imprisonment. He thought the other parts of the Bill made the prohibition of juvenile smoking not only possible but very feasible. He agreed that it would not immediately abolish juvenile smoking, but it would set up a standard, and it would enlist much more powerfully than at present voluntary efforts of both parents and teachers to prevent the evil which all authorities had told them did great harm to young people. He thanked the hon. Gentleman for the clause allowing parish councils in Scotland to subscribe to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, because much of the work of the Bill would have to be done by such societies, and indeed had better be done by them, and therefore it was only right that power should given to subscribe to them. There was one point alluded to by the Under-Secretary in his speech that he had not included in the Bill—the provisions to exclude children from public-houses in Scotland. He said that that was in the Licensing Bill, but the Licensing Bill only applied to England, and therefore there seemed to be a possibility of England receiving this advantage before Scotland. He hoped the Secretary for Scotland and the Lord Advocate would introduce some measure to exclude children from public-houses in Scotland also, or at least to give facilities to a little Bill which he had introduced upon the subject. One point of great interest was that all questions with regard to children were brought together in the Bill. That was good. But then again after the Bill was passed the interests of the children were dispersed, and duties were put upon different Government Departments to carry out the separate provisions of the Bill. He would very strongly suggest to the hon. Gentleman the desirability of somehow or other—he did not know how it was to be done—putting all the interests of the children under one Department, or, if that was not possible, of having a Consultative Committee of the different Departments, Education, Local Government and Home Office, to sit periodically and keep a constant eye upon the interests of the children. Even under this Bill they had the local duties with regard to children divided—he was speaking of Scotland—amongst school boards, town councils, and parish councils, and those three bodies were working separately and without much reference to one another. He knew that in some cases there were little joint committees working together, but he would like to see such a provision embodied in the Bill. He would like to have at headquarters and in each locality a definite organisation watching and working consistently and persistently to save the children. Another advantage of the Bill was that not only would it help the children but it would help those who were trying to help the children. They could not do everything by legislation. In this matter he thought they could do a great deal by setting a standard and an example, and there were a large number of voluntary workers all over the country who were at present devoting themselves to the interests of the children. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that even by the introduction of the Bill he had done a great deal to give a new encouragement and a new stimulus to these good people to put forth new efforts for the rescue and the improvement of children.

*MR. COCHRANE (Ayrshire, N.)

said that from the course of the debate it must be apparent to the House that this was no party question. Where the children were concerned, inside and outside the House everyone was anxious to do what he could in their interests. They might differ sometimes as to the exact way in which their desires should be carried out, but he was sure those desires were genuinely held. If they could tap the evil at its source—if they took care of the pennies, the pounds would take care of themselves—and if they could look after the children while they were young and see as far as they could that they were safeguarded, when they were grown up they would not fall upon the poor rate or go to prison. The Bill had undoubtedly a great deal to recommend it, although in some points he should desire to be allowed to offer criticism. It was a consolidation Bill of considerable length, and he thanked the hon. Gentleman in charge of it for issuing a statement pointing out where there were changes in the law and where there was mere consolidation. The Bill dealt with so many questions that it became almost a Committee discussion, but that could not be avoided. The question of infant life protection had been raised. The evils of baby farming were familiar to everybody. Terrible outrages had been committee, and anything they could do properly to inspect homes to which small children were consigned was desirable. But tact and discretion must be exercised in inspecting homes. Questions of a religious character might come up which were extremely difficult to deal with, and again there might be legitimate cases where children had been bona fideconsigned by well-to-do persons to homes while they were obliged to be absent abroad. As far as he could see, under the Bill it would be absolutely necessary in each of those cases that some inspection should take place. He was sure the hon. Member would consider that that would be supererogation. It would be ridiculous that the Bill should apply to bona fide cases of that kind, and he hoped some means would be devised by which they might be excepted. There was a good deal to be said in favour of places of detention for juvenile offenders, but there would be considerable difficulty in setting them up, and he wished the Bill was a little more explicit as to how they were to be set up and paid for. No doubt anything was better than sending these little children to prison, but still there was room for discussion as to the class of house of detention that was to be set up. Then again, the hon. Member had suggested that in London there should be four Courthouses to form a part of the houses of detention. Surely that would not cover the ground very thoroughly. Children's cases were very fairly dealt with by the London magistrates, who were extremely humane and kindly in their manner towards the children. The Home Secretary had made arrangements with the London magistrates, by which the cases of children were not taken in Court during the ordinary business, but in the magistrates' room, and he thought the hon. Member would find it difficult to devise a better scheme. What was suggested seemed to him to be very elaborate machinery for so few cases. He noticed that imprisonment of children under twelve was to be abolished, but one case in which imprisonment under that age would be necessary had already been pointed out by his hon. friend. Where a child had been committed to an industrial school or reformatory, and the local authority refused to pay, that child might be committed to prison. It was hard upon that child that the local authorities who refused to pay should be able to ride off with the result that the child was sent to prison. He admitted that his own country had failed in some respects to do her duty in this matter. The hon. Member for Dumfries had alluded incidentally to the subject, and had pointed out that there had been a failure in certain cities in Scotland to pay the necessary sums for children committed to reformatory and industrial schools, and that deserved the attention of the hon. Member in the conduct of the Bill. He was glad that children under sixteen were not to be committed to penal servitude. The evil effects of sending children to prison were set forth in every Report of the Prison Commission; those Reports showed how imprisonment made the children callous, hardened, and inured to prison life, and how they lost their self-respect. Those children in prison had a comparatively easy life with their food and clothes found them. Their lives were regulated with no initiative of their own, and no reward for energy, and when they were liberated from that hothouse climate they fell an easy prey to anybody who suggested to them that there was an easier way of living than being honest. As regarded reformatory and industrial schools he noted that some suggestions made by a Committee over which he had the honour to preside had been adopted, and he was glad to see that the House was taking such an interest in the question of reformatory and industrial schools. He knew from experience that it was very hard to get people to understand that kind of work. He had talked on the subject to hon. Members and they seemed to think that reformatory schools were a sort of place of torture for little boys, but nothing could be more absurd, because those boys were given a better education in some respects than was given in the board schools, because it was of a practical kind. The boys in reformatory schools were taught not only book-learning, but such matters as the growth of timber, after which they were put into the carpenter's shop. Other boys were taught the properties of leather, and were afterwards put to making boots and shoes, and when those boys went out into the world in after life they were often better equipped their living in industrial occupations than boys educated in the board schools only. They were also given liberty and freedom, and their self-respect was encouraged in every possible manner, in fact the career of those boys was more like public school life than board school life. They were taken out to camps every year, and they could run away if they chose, but scarcely one had been known to abuse his privileges. The result was shown in the Report of the Inspector of Reformatories, who pointed out that from 85 to 90 per cent. Of the cases of boys sent to reformatories turned out a complete cure and the boys became good citizens. One inspector told him that when he went off to Canada to visit some of the children sent out there, he was met by a carriage and pair driven by a distinguished official who said that he had been educated in a reformatory school in this country. He was glad that the hon. Member proposed to encourage emigration in order to give these boys a new home and a fresh chance in life. Many local authorities rather hesitated to spend £12 a head to send a boy to Canada, but hitherto from 100 to 150 boys per annum had been sent in that way. He was glad to notice that the hon. Member took power to apply to the Treasury for a further sum to be spent in that direction. When a boy left a reformatory school he was very frequently returned to his parents and began life under his former surroundings with the result that he often lapsed again into crime. That evil would be remedied if the boys were emigrated. He would like to call the attention of the House to some of the clauses which he thought were less commendable than those to which he had referred. One of them was Clause 13, which dealt with cases of accidental burning. He hardly thought the lion. Member knew the full effect of that clause. It was not to be a criminal act to have a fire in one's room without a fireguard, but if an accident took place and a child got burned by going to the fire, then the fact that the parent had not a fireguard became a criminal act and the unfortunate parent was to be hailed before the Court. What would happen in the case of children called down in the drawing-room or the parlour for the children's hour? If an accident took place would the parent be hailed before the magistrate? He ventured to say that there were no statistics of any wilful or negligent burning of children in the country. In the case of burning because the fire was not guarded, was the grief of the whole family to be accentuated by the parent being brought before the magistrate and fined? If they were going to make it a crime if a child met with an accident from an unguarded fire why not make it also a crime if an accident occurred from a lamp? A child would be far more likely to pull a lamp over. Why not make it a crime if a child was injured crossing the road in the middle of the traffic? He asked the hon. Member to consider that point in proposing such restrictions, for in that respect he did not think he was acting either wisely or well. Then again he would like to know what overlying was. Did he suggest that the mothers of this country deliberately lay over their children with a view to suffocating them? He thought that was a monstrous allegation and a statement which could not be proved. The late Home Secretary read out to the House during the course of his speech the experience of a coroner who said that in his district of London they had been engaged for some years in endeavouring to find genuine cases of overlying, but so far their search had been unfruitful. Overlying was a generic term probably used by medical officers to cover many cases where children were found dead in bed and a diagnosis proved somewhat difficult. He did not believe there was such a thing as wilful overlying of children. Hon. Members might call it grandmotherly legislation, but it would be a great reflection even upon a grandmother who suggested that any woman would wilfully overlie her child. If overlying was really an offence then a *10 fine was totally inadequate to meet the case. With regard to juvenile smoking he did not think that that was an offence of a very flagrant character. Little boys always had smoked and always would smoke, and it should not be overlooked that smoking in early years brought its own penalties with it. The hon. Member desired to check that habit and in doing so sheltered himself behind the Report of the House of Lords Committee. He did not believe that a House of Lords Committee was infallible, or that its recommendations should be slavishly followed. Their recommendation was that where a boy was seen smoking, or in the opinion of a constable was about to smoke, he should be dealt with. A boy might be sent a message to a tobacconist's shop by his father, and on coming out of the shop he might be seen, pursued, and captured by a constable who desired to make the capture when he ought to be attending to more serious matters. The officer was to take the boy to a place of detention. The magistrate, as was explained by the Under-Secretary, would only go to the places of detention every other day, and the boy might have to spend a night in the house of detention. Under the Bill whenever a charge was brought against a boy the parent or guardian must attend the Court. The father would lose a day's wages in going to the place to prove that the boy was sent out by him to buy tobacco or cigarettes. What remedy would there be for the boy or the parent under those circumstances? Was it not a straining of the law to subject people to such treatment? Little boys still would smoke; they had only to go to their own gardens, or do as possibly the hon. Gentleman opposite had himself done—smoke up the chimney. The best way to deal with this matter would be to stop the practice at the fountain, and make it illegal to sell to little boys of a certain age. To have a little boy brought before a magistrate and to cause the parent to lose a day's wages was going a great deal too far. The object, no doubt, was to prevent the parent from evading the responsibility which ought to fall upon him. It was thought that if the boy's father lost a day's wages he would take the punishment of the boy into his own hands. Was that fair? If it was thought that the boy should be punished otherwise than by fine, if it was thought that punishment with a strap or a cane was sufficient for a boy who smoked, why not put it in the Bill and let the punishment be administered under proper judicial authority? If the parent had lost a day's wages, how would he treat the boy when he got him home? The punishment would be measured not by the fact that the little boy had smoked, but by the fact that the father had lost a day's wages. The punishment might be administered when the parent was in a fit of temper, and it would, therefore, be better to put in the Bill that the boy might receive three or four strokes with a cane. He approved of many of the provisions of the Bill, but the clauses to which he had referred did not add to its strength, and if they were persisted in they would probably add to the difficulty of passing the measure.


said the hon. Member for North Ayrshire had asked for figures showing the basis for the clauses with regard to accidents from burning and overlying. During the last seven years the number of cases of burning was 10,500, and the number of cases of overlying was 9,500. He submitted that was a huge national loss which the State must deal with, while having due regard to the feelings of parents which the hon. Member opposite had so well expressed. A case came to his notice two months ago in which a mother of drunken habits allowed two or three young children to play about in a house, with the result that some of them having gone too near the fire an accident occurred. The mother had placed herself in such a condition that she was unable to safeguard the children. She was prosecuted, but a conviction was not obtained. If the provisions of this Bill had been in force, she would have been properly punished. There was an enormous body of public opinion in favour of the suggested change in the law. Last year there were hundreds of meetings held all over England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, and the officials of the Government were in possession of piles of resolutions in regard to the matter. The Society of Coroners had considered the matter and given their adhesion to a much more drastic amendment of the law than was proposed by the Bill. If the hon. Member for North Ayrshire considered these facts he would perhaps take a different view of the clauses when the Bill went into Committee. As to the prevention of cruelty to children, excellent results had come from the action of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Fifteen years oases of brutal ill-treatment of children found about 45 per cent of the total cases dealt with by the society, and last year they had dropped down to 8 per cent. The influence of public opinion was useful in preventing that form of offence. An extraordinary amount of public opinion on the part of all classes of society had been expressed in favour of the clauses dealing with juvenile smoking. He remembered reading a little while ago of the enormous amount of cigarettes consumed in Sheffield. That account stated that no less than 30,000,000 were smoked by young smokers in that city. The hon. Member opposite had said that that evil should be dealt with at the source. It was proposed by Clause 37 to make it an offence for any person to sell or give "to a person apparently under the age of sixteen years any cigarettes or cigarette papers, whether for his own use or not." He welcomed the provisions in the first portion of the Bill in regard to infant life protection. As to the proposals for the extension of the reformatory school system, he admitted that they were desirable, but at the same time he was old-fashioned enough to be very chary indeed of destroying parental responsibility for the child. The aim of the State should not be so much to take the child from the home as to take cruelty from the home. He believed they could, by insisting on the responsibility of the parent, do an enormous amount of good. He would beg the House not to entertain the idea that parents were to be relieved of their responsibility and allowed to dump their children into industrial schools. Parents must be educated as to their responsibilities. There was one point which had not been touched upon with regard to Children's Courts. There were many young rascals in the streets who seemed to like the notoriety derived from being placed in the dock. He thought a great deal of the incentive to wrong-doing would be taken away if these young persons who appeared in the public Courts were quietly dealt with in a private room by magistrates who knew all about them. A new era was opening up for the protection of these drift species of young humanity. These things had been dealt with effectually in America, even in Egypt, and certainly in Australia, and thousands of young people had been rescued from an undesirable life and surroundings. From his own personal experience, he wished to join in the commendations which had been given to the Under-Secretary for the Home Office. The hon. Gentleman had seen everybody who could give him information on the subject-matter of the Bill, and it was owing to his ingenuity and skill, and the time he had devoted to it, that they found the measure in its present shape. He hoped he would be pardoned for a reference to the Rev. Benjamin Waugh, who was well known to all Members of the House for his tremendous earnestness in favour of Bills such as this. He deeply regretted that that great philanthropist had not lived to see the passage of this Bill into law; he had gone from them, but he was worthy of an equal place in their memories with Shaftesbury and Barnardo.

MR. SUMMERBELL (Sunderland)

said it was not his intention to oppose the Bill in any way. He commended it as consolidating all the various Acts of Parliament applicable to child life, and he recommended his right hon. friend the President of the Local Government Board to adopt a similar policy in regard to Housing Acts. He thought there were two aspects of this question of child life. He agreed with those who asserted that every parent who, through drink or immoral conduct neglected his children, and allowed them to go to waste, should be prosecuted to the utmost extent. But the economic aspect of the question must also be recognised. Let them take the case of a widow left with four or five children, and compelled to go out to do charing work and washing for their support and her own. What was that poor woman to do with the children when she was out earning her living? She could not afford economically to pay for the protection of the children, however much she would like to. Was it then right to punish her if any harm came to them through what he called innocent neglect? In the slums of the City of London there were 35,000 children who had practically no parental care, and the wonder to him often was that the children were not really worse than they were. Where a child had been lost through accidental burning, it did not always follow that the parent had neglected the interests of the child, and he repudiated the idea of punishing the parent under such circumstances. The loss of the child by fire was itself quite sufficient punishment. If they were to rescue the children for the future service of the State, the House must go a step further and recognise the necessity of putting within the reach of every parent the economic opportunity of looking after the welfare of his or her children. In the larger towns men who would do better if they had the opportunity were compelled to live amid miserable surroundings, and the children had nothing but the pawnshop and public-house as their constant companions and the gutter as their playground. These men should have an economic opportunity of doing their best for their children, which at present they had not. Reformatory schools had been spoken of very eulogistically. An hon. Member had led them to believe that reformatory schools were better than board schools, and had spoken about an individual who had been brought up in a reformatory school, and was now driving about in a carriage and pair. One would have thought from the hon. Gentleman's remarks that the board schools were inferior to the reformatory schools; but he maintained that so far as the education in the board schools was concerned, the hon. Member's statement was a gross exaggeration. He wished to say that so far as the occupants of the Labour Benches were concerned, they were pleased at the many good features in the Bill, and were prepared to allow it to go to a Committee upstairs, where a few Amendments might be made to make the punishment a little less severe on innocent people who were unable to take every care of their children. He quite agreed with the hon. Gentleman who had spoken of the big national loss involved in the sacrifice of child life to-day. That was an enormous loss to the nation, and they ought to do their best to lessen it. He submitted to the House, however, that the true remedy, if they wanted to rescue the children, was to tap the evil at its source, and to afford to the parents an economic opportunity to bring up their children as they ought to be brought up

*MR. BRAMSDON (Portsmouth)

thought that the action of the Government in introducing this measure was statesmanlike. He commended the clauses which instituted child Courts and did away with imprisonment of the children. He especially thanked his hon. friend the Under-Secretary for having introduced Clauses 13 and 14, which were in substance the same as clauses in the Bill which he had brought in last year to prevent cruelty to children. He had been a coroner for nearly twenty-five years and a deputy coroner for five years in one of the largest towns in the Kingdom, and, from experience obtained in that capacity, he believed that if the Bill became law, the great loss of children through burning and overlying would be reduced by one-half. It was terrible to contemplate the awful punishment which a child was compelled to undergo from burning. It was a mistake to suppose that the children who were overlaid were weaklings. They were generally healthy children who were taken to bed by their mothers sometimes in a drunken condition. His hon. friend the Member for Sunderland had referred to the economic side of the question; but was it an economic question? He supposed it would be said that the parents were unable in the case of child-burning to provide fireguards, but his experience was that that excuse was rarely made. Charitable institutions would arise which would provide fireguards if necessary, but he believed that in the majority of cases when the parents got to know the responsibility which rested upon them they would find means to meet it. From an experience of thirty years he could assure the House that no fear need be felt that innocent parents would be punished. Let the people know that the responsibility rested upon them and they would set to work to think for themselves, as they did not too often do now, and they would take the necessary precautions. He hoped that those two clauses would be passed, and that generally the Bill would be acceptable.


said he wished to say a word or two about industrial schools, and, differing from his hon. friend below him, he did not compare them with board schools. The children in the board schools were the children of the free, but the children in the industrial schools had been sent there for their own fault or more often for the faults of their parents. Considering the source from which children in industrial schools came they had accomplished some of the most remarkable things that had ever been seen in this country. When they considered that the children were recruited from the moral dregs of the population it was a testimony to their extraordinary success that they turned these children out as reliable men and women. That fact spoke greatly to the credit of these institutions. He fully agreed with the remarks of the hon. Member for Bath as to parental responsibility, and no person in that House could be more anxious to retain it than he was, but there was a class of parent to whom children could not be safely left. The hon. Member below him had quoted two or three cases which were quite enough to show that that was so, and it was unnecessary to amplify them. No Government or country could leave children in the hands of guardians such as those, and it was very difficult to provide for them except by the industrial school methods, which had, as he had said, been extremely successful. Anyone who had seen the sort of boys and girls they turned out, and the affection they had for the places in which they had lived, would understand what the work was which those institutions were doing. It was most important that the children should be sent to them in good time before it was too late to save them, because if they did not go to the industrial school they went later on to the reformatory or the prison. It was objected that the industrial schools were not sufficient in number, and were a burden upon the rates, but he would be glad to support the hon. Gentleman in any measure he might take, in order to supply an adequate number of industrial schools, whether it was by putting an obligation on the local authorities to erect them, or by giving larger grants for children in the schools. In regard to the Report of the Select Committee in reference to single nurse-child homes, he said with some diffidence that he had doubts upon the matter, because he saw in the Report that the Members were unanimous on the question of inspection, and he had not the benefit of being a Member of the Committee which gave illustrations of carelessness, neglect, and cruelty even in single nurse-child homes, which necessitated some inspection. He could not help saying that all these things were a balance of advantage and disadvantage, and if there were some cases of neglect and cruelty in those homes, there were many hundreds of homes where much affection and care was given by the foster-parents to the poor children who were boarded out. Inspection was a necessary evil, and if no harm took place so much the better, but there were many homes in which, if there was to be inspection, the children would not be received so readily or so cordially. He noticed that at the end of the Report it was said that so far as possible the inspection should be deprived of any rigid or formal character, and carried out by women possessing special qualifications for the work. Locally they knew that there were great numbers of women ready to give their time to work of this kind, but very of tenthose women, zealous and keen as they were, had the defects of their qualities. Perhaps the excess of zeal which they put into the accomplishment of their work had an irritating effect upon the foster parents who received the children. The lady full of the expectation of a tidiness which was impossible, or of open windows which were not prevalent in this country, swooped down upon a cottage and made requirements which the foster-parents were unable or un willing to comply with, and very often the father of the family said that if he was to be exposed to visits of that kind he would rather do without the child. That was the difficulty which presented itself in country districts and it was a great one to overcome. He quite recognised, however, that inspection might be necessary, but he would suggest that when the Bill got into Committee the hon. Gentleman should carefully consider the matter, and see whether it was not possible to put in qualifications which would enable him to exempt certain homes from inspection. He saw that there would be a difficulty in the case. If some homes were to be exempt while others were inspected, it would cast a slur upon those homes which were not considered worthy of exemption, but he hoped that some means would be found to get out of the difficulty. It was a great and real one, and if it was not dealt with incalculable harm would be done in regard to the boarding-out of children. Then as to smoking, he thought everybody agreed that it was bad for young boys, and he was very anxious it should be stopped, but to his mind the proper authorities to stop it were the parent and the school master. The Bill was brought in to prevent boys from coming into the atmosphere of the police court or the prison, and yet it went out of its way in regard to a not very serious offence drag boys into that atmosphere. If the Bill confined itself to forbidding the sale of tobacco to boys, he thought no harm would be done, and he would point out that that would follow the analogy of the Licensing Bill under which children were not to be allowed to go into a public house. The age-limit was sixteen, or such limit as the magistrates might determine, but they must remember that at sixteen a very large number of boys were not under the control of their parents and were not pupils, but were earning their own livelihood and standing on their own feet, and it was difficult to make restrictions on their liberty. He objected to the proposal because it would bring up boys to disregard the law, which was a more serious fault than smoking. They would learn to break the laws of the country and would think that it was a trivial and unimportant thing. The hon. Gentleman had said that the fact that the State had denounced the practice would impress the young, but he was afraid that the young had not so developed that any decrees of the State would impress them in such a matter. He did not wish to repeat what so many had said, but he desired to express how grateful they were to the hon. Gentleman for his excellent Bill.

*MR. BRIGHT (Oldham)

remarked that as a member of the Select Committee he would like to say in regard to the single nurse child homes that they had very ample evidence that there was no necessity for inspection. They had also evidence that there was no difficulty in finding homes for a single nurse child amongst decent people. They had before then the evidence of the lady inspector. The noble Lord was inclined to imagine that the female inspectors would behave in a harsh manner, but he thought if he had seen the ladies who came before the Committee and heard their evidence he would not have entertained that opinion. They said that in the single nurse child homes which they had inspected, and which they had no difficulty in getting permission to inspect, the presence of the lady inspector was not only not resented but welcomed. He thought there would be no difficulty, from what they heard, in obtaining a large number of good homes. Unfortunately, a large number of these children, he was afraid were sent to these homes for the purpose of getting rid of them and never seeing them again, and in many cases they had been so neglected that their lives were shortened. In regard to the question of the appointment of inspectors they had evidence that in a great many places in the larger areas of the country no inspectors had been appointed to inspect the homes in which two or three children were kept, or that inspectors had in the first instance been appointed, but after that no appointments had been made, and the provisions as to inspection had become a dead letter. This Bill said that public bodies "may" appoint inspectors, but he thought it should be altered to "shall," so that all these homes should be inspected. There was a clause in the Bill which gave power for taking away little girls from immoral houses of course there was a distinction between the dangers to little girls and little boys in those houses, but he should say that it was desirable to remove little boys also, and he did not see why they should not be included in the clause. In Clause 106 it was provided that children under sixteen should not be allowed to pawn clothes, and he had had evidence before him that there was a great deal done in the pawning of little children's clothes by drunken parents. He knew that an objection was made to any law which prevented pawnbrokers from taking little children's clothes, because it was said that the parents might wish to raise money on the clothes of dead children or cast-off suits. But in those cases the parents would not want to pawn them, but to sell, as they could get a better price than it was possible to get on a pawn ticket. He was told that in many cases children were provided with clothes for the purpose of going to church, chapel, or Sunday school, but on Monday morning the drunken father or mother took the clothes and pawned them till the following Saturday. He thought it would be a good provision to prohibit pawnbrokers from taking children's clothes in pawn. He understood that in some parts of the country, and he believed in Edinburgh, the police acted in conjunction with the charitable organisations to prevent the pawning of children's clothes. As to the question of fireguards, the accounts of accidents were terrible. Fireguards were extremely cheap, and a great many benevolent people were quite willing to provide them in cases where the parents were too poor to do so. The charges of overlying were often of a very serious character. He heard not long ago of a case where a woman had lost four or five children in this way in succession and apparently did not care whether they died or lived. He welcomed the Bill, and hoped it would soon pass through the House, for he believed it met with general approval.

*SIR HENRY CRAIK (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)

pointed out that under the present condition of discussion it was impossible for those Members who were not on this particular Committee to which this Bill would be referred to have anything to say as to the form the Bill would take, except in the present limited discussion, though many of them were interested in the subject, and had spent their lives in studying schemes to ameliorate the conditions of the children. One thing that had struck him in the course of the debate was that the criticisms upon the Bill had all followed a very usual course. It was the experience of all accustomed to administrative work to find that objection was taken to the inefficiency of some part of the machinery; but the moment an attempt was made to touch the evil, the moment machinery was introduced which was to work drastically and efficiently and to remedy the evil, all sorts of objections were raised—the great social objection referred to by the hon. Member for Sunderland, or else some interference with the liberty of the individual, raised by many Members, and so on. It was, however, impossible to make an omelette without breaking eggs, and a great social reform of this kind could not be carried out without interference with personal liberty, and possibly with a good deal that might be picturesque enough in ordinary life. They wished to rescue "Oliver Twist" out of the clutches of "Fagin," and in the process it might become necessary to take "Little Nell" away from her grandfather. With regard to the gipsy clauses, it was said the proposals of the Bill interfered with the picturesque and free side of life. No one would suggest such a thing as that who had seen the actual conditions under which the gipsy children lived. It was not said by the one man in Scotland who knew most about the reality as well as the poetry of Scottish life—Sir Walter Scott. In the "Heart of Midlothian," and still more in the "Highland Widow," he stripped the life of all its picturesqueness, and pointed out what was the real state of degradation under which these people lived. In certain parts of Scotland he had seen it himself. He had entered the caves where some of these gipsies lived on the Caithness coast, and if after what he had seen people thought no change was called for, he could not understand their feelings. It was the same with regard to the drastic remedy proposed for overlying. That evil could not be remedied without something that would strike terror into the hearts of the careless, or those who were neglectful of their duties of motherhood. That could only be done by drastic machinery, which was always apt to be objected to as interfering with personal liberty. One point he desired to impress on the hon. Gentleman was that it would not do to try and carry on all this remedial work of raising these waifs and strays as if it were part of the great educational work of the country. It was not educational but remedial work. And the work which was being dealt with in this Bill was more or less of a penal kind. It could not help being so. It had to deal very often not with the regular inhabitants of the locality where these persons were found. They were waifs and strays jettisoned by society—thrown by chance into a particular locality. Therefore it was not fair to lay the whole burden on the locality as was done in the case of ordinary education. The central authority of the State must step in in this case with a larger share of public money to the assistance of the locality which needed it. The local authorities often found that the public opinion of the locality was not behind them in spending adequately upon such remedial and casual work as this, urgent as it was. These waifs and strays had no one to stand up and criticise the provisions which were made for them, and the State must therefore step in, and while it imposed a high standard, must also largely assist the locality in maintaining that standard. This was not a municipal burden, it was a work that must be carried out at the expense of the State.

MR. L. HASLAM (Monmouth Boroughs)

called attention to what he believed was an omission in the Bill, viz., that there was no provision to prevent insuring children by foster parents. Baby farmers ought not to be allowed to have any advantage in the case of the death of a child, and he suggested a clause by which it should be not only illegal for the foster-parents to insure children but for any company or person to insure them. He understood that the Home Secretary was prepared to introduce a clause to that effect, and he hoped it would receive the cordial assent of the House.

LORD EDMUND TALBOT (Sussex, Chichester)

congratulated the Under-Secretary upon one feature of the Bill, which he described as contrasting very favourably with other legislative efforts of the Government in regard to children. As he read the Bill, adequate and definite consideration was given to the religious denominations to which the children belonged. That very important part of the rights of the child and the parent as regards religion was properly safeguarded. In certain quarters an impression prevailed that the Catholic community was against the inspection of the one child homes. That, however, was not the case. It was not a religious question at all, and the Catholics were as much divided upon it as other people. Personally he was against inspection, but he was perfectly satisfied with the Report of the Committee and the exemptions that were recommended by that Report, the recommendations of which the Under-Secretary by this Bill was attempting to carry out.